Classic Apologists and Their Facepalm Misuse of Scripture

facepalmI wanted to offer some comments on a recent radio/podcast discussion between Sye Ten Bruggencate, who maintains the Proof That God Exists website, and apologist Eric Hernandez of Eric Hernandez Ministries. They were together on the Sin Boldly Podcast discussing apologetic methodology. Sye took the presuppositional position, Eric the classicist approach. Listen to the discussion HERE so as to get up to speed.

The podcast was an hour or so, and the two sides were able to articulate their positions clearly. I have always appreciated Sye’s work, and while I may have minor, disagreeing quibbles with his overall presentation, he does a fantastic job outlining what I believe to be the biblical way a Christian should defend the faith.

I was not familiar with Eric, but he came across as a nice fellow. He is well spoken and seems to have a growing ministry. His presentation, on the other hand, aggravated me to the point of wanting to pull out my hair. I guess that should’ve been anticipated, because he brought together all the talking points I’ve come to love and expect from classic apologists. The copious appeals to human philosophy, the intentional avoidance of biblical theology, and the grating misuse of Scripture.

It is that grating misuse of Scripture I wish to address with this post.

Now if I may begin with a bit of broad-brushing.

I believe there is reason for this misuse of Scripture. It has been my observation that classic apologists have an extremely low view of the Bible, especially at the front end of the apologetic encounter. Because they insist that the trustworthiness and viability of the Bible must first be established in the mind of the unbeliever with the use of external evidence BEFORE it can appealed to as an authority, they have a bad tendency of intentionally avoiding it.

When philosophical constructs and logic-chopping arguments are the focus with first engaging the unbeliever, Scripture invariably plays a secondary role. That regrettably causes bad exegetical habits to form, and the mishandling of Scripture springs forth from there.

Again, that is a broad-brush accusation. I obviously haven’t talked with every single individual who considers himself a classic apologist. I will readily admit there may be many classical apologists who handle the Scriptures quite well. That, however, has not been my experience; and I have discussed apologetic methodology with a number of them over the years on social media and in other venues.

Listen to the Sye and Eric exchange. Pretty much every passage Eric mentioned that he believes supports his classical approach was taken out of context. Just a cursory reading of the passage reveals that the verse has nothing at all to do with apologetics or how we are to engage unbelief. I wrote down the main ones that were repeated a number of times and I wanted to briefly address four of them.

elijah

1 Kings 18. I have heard classic apologists appeal frequently to the story of Elijah defeating the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. They insist that when the unbelievers asked for evidence of God, God certainly gave it in the form of fire falling from heaven and consuming a sacrifice.

However, if we read carefully the account, Elijah confronts Ahab in 1 Kings 18:17. He rebukes him for leading Israel astray into idolatry. Elijah tells Ahab to gather all Israel (the covenant people of Israel who already believe in God) and the 400 prophets of Baal that Jezebel supported. They gather at Mt. Carmel and there God puts His character on display, not to prove Himself to unbelievers, but to show Himself to Israel, especially Ahab. The showdown was meant as a judgment against Jezebel’s false prophets and a call to Israel for covenant faithfulness. It had nothing to do with proving God’s existence with evidence.

Isaiah 1:18. Isaiah’s words, “come now, and let us reason together,” are often quoted as a formula for engaging unbelievers reasonably. The idea being that God wants Christians to use their “reasoning,” and the “us” reasoning together is understood as believers and unbelievers meeting together to discuss the truth claims of Christianity in a reasonable fashion.

That is not at all what Isaiah is saying – well, what God is saying through His prophet. Rather, Isaiah’s opening chapter is a rebuke of the sins that Israel has accumulated, highlighted from 1:1-17. God, speaking through Isaiah, calls His people to repentance. He will wash their scarlet sins as white as snow, 1:18. The point Isaiah is making when he writes, “come let us reason together,” is that if Israel turns from their sins, comes back to covenant obedience, God will bless them. His words have nothing to do with apologetic methodology with unbelievers.

Acts 17. Classic apologists are adamant that Paul’s message to the Athenian intelligentsia on Mar’s Hill models clearly the classical method of doing apologetics. Eric was no exception, citing the incident a few times in his discussion with Sye.

One of the reasons they believe Paul modeled classical apologetics has to do with his citation of two pagan Greek poets, Epimendes and Aratus. While those two men were speaking about pagan deities with their poems, Paul appeals to them as evidence for the true and living God that he proclaimed. In other words, Paul did not appeal to Scripture, nor start with the Bible, when he was talking with the Athenians. He used the poems of pagan poets.

We only have his summary message recorded for us, so we cannot be entirely certain what use of Scripture Paul made. He had already been in the Synagogue a while speaking with the Jews and other worshipers who attended. He obviously had gained attention with his preaching because the philosophers were interested in what he had to say.

Paul, seizing upon the fact that Athens was a city given completely over to the pursuit of false religion, idols, and every philosophical whimsy, took the opportunity to preach on Mar’s Hill what the Athenians already knew to be true: that they know the true and living God, but they have substituted their idols and false religions for worship of Him.

Paul quotes two of their poets, not for the purpose of appealing to external evidence in order to build his case, but rather to expose the folly of their philosophical worldview. He in essence is telling them, “look, you know the true God, even your poets did, but you all worship idols instead.” He goes on to explain to them how they will be judged for their sin and calls them to come to Christ. One will note that he doesn’t attempt to prove to them the Resurrection of Jesus, but just proclaims it to them, 17:31. If anything, Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill is exegetical application of Paul’s words out of Romans 1.

1 Corinthians 15. First Corinthians 15 is considered one of the more important chapters of the NT, because Paul makes a case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every classical apologist appeals to the chapter as proof that Paul utilized external evidences to prove the historical reality of the Resurrection, particularly the use of eye-witness testimony.

But 1 Corinthians 15 is a passage that is misunderstood by many Christians regardless of their apologetic methodological persuasions. It is mistakenly believed that Paul is trying to prove the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ to unbelievers in the Corinthian church. He is not.

Rather, he is correcting the Corinthian’s erroneous idea that Christians do not experience a physical resurrection. Verse 12 states, “Now, if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you (the Corinthian church) say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The Corinthians believed in Christ’s resurrection; where they struggled was believing that a bodily resurrection happens for Christians.

The entire chapter is Paul’s apologetic for proving that because of Christ’s bodily resurrection, a resurrection the Corinthians accepted as really happening, all Christians will also experience a bodily resurrection. The chapter has to be read with that main focus in view.

There are probably others I may have missed, but those are the key passages I often hear brought up in discussions on the proper methodology for doing apologetics. While I believe it is vitally important that we anchor our methodology in the teaching of Scripture, our goal should be to do so not only exegetically, but also contextually. Misappropriating the Bible only undermines the entire apologetic enterprise.

Ezekiel 18 and the Imputation of Adam’s Sin

adam eating fruitI had occasion recently to engage some individuals who deny the imputation of Adam’s sin. This of course was on Facebook; a place that can be dank at times, filled with many dark corners occupied with the cages of every theologically foul bird imaginable.

One of the key arguments my antagonists used to make their case was an appeal to Ezekiel 18 as proof against the doctrine of imputation. The prophet Ezekiel, they claim, demonstrates that each individual person is responsible for his own sin before the Lord. Hence a son can never be held accountable for the sins of a father nor can a wicked father pass the guilt of sin upon his son. Ezekiel’s words demonstrates that the idea of Adam’s sin imputed upon all of humanity is a false doctrine.

I was challenged to provide a response, so I thought I would write up a rebuttal to this sloppy heresy.

Let’s outline the particulars first.

The earliest doctrinal statement, apart from Scripture, affirming the imputation of Adam’s sin is of course the Council of Orange in 529 AD. That is where the heresy of Pelagius was condemned and the doctrine of Adam’s sin defended and defined more concisely.

Canon 2 provides the relevant definition to my discussion here,

CANON 2.  If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him
alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he
declares that it is only the death of the body which is the
punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death
of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race,
he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who
says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man
and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because
all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).

In other words, the Bible clearly teaches that when Adam sinned, he imputed his sin of disobedience to the whole of humanity. Meaning, every person, both man and woman, born after his fall into sin, were born sinners, incapable of saving themselves apart from God’s grace. Furthermore, all humanity bears the full guilt of Adam’s sin in that they are born under the curse of God, separated from God, and judicially under His judgment. The exegesis of all the necessary Scriptures that speak to Adam’s sin only confirms that truth.

So how exactly does Ezekiel 18 fit into the debate?

Ezekiel was an Exilic prophet. He was more than likely taken captive with 8,000 other Israelite in 598 BC by the Babylonians. He was called to a specific prophetic ministry to those captives before Babylon utterly leveled Jerusalem in 586 BC.

During his ministry to those captives, Ezekiel confronted the erroneous idea believed by his fellow countrymen that the reason why they were in their circumstances languishing in captivity had to do with the sins of the previous generation. In their minds, the people believed they did nothing wrong to feel guilty about and so denied any responsibility for the judgment they were experiencing. As far as they were concerned, they were innocent. Chapter 18 rebukes that false belief.

With that bit of background in mind, let me briefly sketch out what Ezekiel 18 is and is not saying.

First, it needs to be known that the use of chapter 18 against the doctrine of imputation is something of a novel idea. That “interpretation” has only been seriously considered within the last 200 years or so with the emergence of higher critical views of the Bible, as well as among unorthodox groups who hate the doctrine of imputation. That has not been the view of the historic, Christian church.

Secondly, Ezekiel is not rebuking once and for all the notion of transgenerational punishment as some modern commentators suggest. Moses was clear in Deuteronomy 24:16 that fathers were not to be put to death for the sins of their sons, nor the sons for the sins of their fathers.

Thirdly, Ezekiel is not teaching that individual salvation can be lost, another false notion about the content of chapter 18.

Fourth, Ezekiel is repudiating the doctrine of retribution. That is the idea that if a person does enough good, God will honor his good deeds, but if he has unconfessed sins, God will bring disaster and misfortune upon his life. That is what Job’s head-wagging friends suggested was the reason for his personal calamity and trials. They were wrong.

Fifth, Ezekiel also repudiates the false belief that a person can be held responsible for the past sins of loved ones, or generational curses. The prophet’s words are a direct refutation to the charismatic teaching of generational curses that are passed down from family member to family member.

What Ezekiel 18 does tell us is, according to verse 3, that the people of Israel are the focus of God’s rebukes. Meaning, the primary audience is the nation of Israel in judgment and captivity.

Rather than this chapter teaching us about extreme individualism as those who are opposed to the doctrine of imputation want to believe, Ezekiel rebukes that false belief and reminds the people they are in their circumstances because ALL of them as the collective nation share in the responsibility of committing those sins listed throughout the chapter. Adam, for example, blamed Eve for his disobedient act, who in turn, blamed the serpent. Yet all of them shared in the sin for which they were judged. The same is with the nation of Israel.

God reminds them through the words of the prophet that even though they all share in the guilt of Israel’s sin, God is not unjust and will judge everyone according to their obedience to the law. A law-breaking father is responsible for his law-breaking alone and his children will not be held accountable for it. Just as a faithful, law-keeping father is not held judicially responsible for his law-breaking son.

Additionally, God makes it clear in verses 21 and 22 that a wicked man who is a law-breaker who turns from his wicked way and now obeys God’s law, will not have his past sin of law-breaking held against him. God forgives and does not remember his past disobedience. In like manner, God states that a righteous man who turns from his righteous ways to live out the rest of his life as a law-breaking, defier of God’s ways will be judged for his sin and not his past righteousness. His apostasy is described as treachery in verse 24 and for it he will die.

The prophet concludes his words by proclaiming God’s heart who wishes none to perish, but that all of them would do right and live. That would entail them recognizing their collective sin against God’s covenant, their repentance to no longer be law breakers, and their return to obeying God’s commands.

So, rather than this chapter being a treatise that rejects and refutes the biblical doctrine of imputation, it is a specific word to the people of captive Israel to turn away from the law-breaking that brought them to their circumstances, return to God, and live.

 

 

What Roman 1 tells us about man’s knowledge of God

judgementI recently had a nearly 2 hour discussion on the subject of apologetic methodology with Adam Tucker, the director of missions and evangelism at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Our conversation highlighted the key differences between classical apologetics of the Thomistic stripe and presuppositionalism, or what I like to call biblical apologetics. The discussion can be downloaded HERE.

Probably one of the more significantly important distinctions between our positions has to do with what we believe about the knowledge man has of God. Adam insists man’s knowledge of God is mediate, whereas I believe it is immediate.

An article I noted during the discussion explains the difference.

The 24 Fundamental Theses of Official Catholic Philosophy

Under theses 22, the first sentence reads,

That God exists we do not know by immediate intuition, nor do we demonstrate it a priori, but certainly a posteriori, that is, by things which are made, arguing from effect to cause.

The commentary for this point states in part,

Since the proper object of our intellect is the essences of material things, it is clear we have no immediate intuition of God’s spiritual essence, and, consequently, neither of His existence. Since the notion we have of His essence is an abstract notion, the existence implied in that notion belongs to the essential order and in no way to the actual. Still, we can demonstrate His existence with a rigorous demonstration, which goes from the effects to their ultimate cause.

The commentator seems to suggest that human intellect can only gain knowledge about material things, or things that are experienced with our senses. That would then exclude spiritual things because they are not perceived by our senses, or so I guess. Thus the classic apologist believes unbelievers are born as blank slates as it pertains to God. They learn and acquire knowledge about reality through sense experience overtime.

In order to prove God to the unbeliever, an apologist must build an accumulative case for God beginning with what he knows about reality, and moving from the experienced effects of that reality back to the ultimate cause, the God of the Bible Who is the only logical ultimate cause.

I, on the other hand, believe the exact opposite. I believe man’s knowledge of God is immediate and by intuition. I believe that because that is exactly what the Scriptures teach. In other words, all men are born as the image bearers of God, because they are His creatures. The apologist does not have to prove God’s existence to an unbeliever. He already knows God exists. It is a matter of the unbeliever turning from his sin and submitting to his creator as Lord and Savior as the Gospel truth is brought to bear upon the person.

One of our points of contention during our discussion had to do with Romans 1:18 ff. and whether or not Paul is teaching that man’s knowledge of God is mediate or immediate.

I am not entirely sure how Adam would exegete the passage, but from what I gather from our conversation, if I am understanding him correctly, he seems to take the position that when Paul writes that God’s attributes and eternal power is understood through what has been made, he is saying unbelievers take in knowledge about God with their sense experience. It goes back to what that theses point stated above: we learn about God from things which are made arguing from effect to cause.

I don’t think that is at all what Paul has in mind. In fact, I believe he is quite clear that men understand God’s attributes and divine power because when they see the world and how it operates, they know intuitively God is their creator. The problem is they refuse to have anything to do with him and thus rebel against what it is they clearly understand. That is the whole idea of them actively suppressing the truth in unrighteousness as it says in Romans 1:18.

Let me show you what I mean.

Romans 1:19 states, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Notice the word “within.” What is known about God is evident within them. That is knowledge internally known, not experienced and learned over time. Notice it further states the reason they know about God is the fact God has made it evident to them. He actively created man with that knowledge.

Now, some translations have a footnote by the word “within” that claims “within” can also be rendered “among” or “in the midst of.” That would lean the interpretation of the phrase to suggesting that the knowledge of God is knowable or obtainable from external sense perception if the unbeliever just considers the evidence rationally as the classical apologist insists. However, there is no exegetical warrant in the overall context of Romans that affirms that understanding of the text. In fact, the context stands against it.

For example, consider Romans 2:14-15 as Paul continues arguing his case for the purpose of the Gospel,

14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them

Notice the word instinctively, which can also be translated naturally. It is by nature that unbelieving gentiles live according to God’s moral law. Additionally, Paul says they show or demonstrate the work of the Law written where? In their hearts. In other words, their knowledge of God’s moral law is already stamped upon their hearts. They act upon it instinctively and intuitively contrary to what that Roman Catholic theses statement claims. All humanity have both material sense perception as well as spiritual perception. That is why all men without exception are religiously devoted to something, whatever it may be.

If men have to learn about God by their sense observation and remain uncertain of His existence UNTIL AFTER He is proven to them through a presentation that is built upon an accumulative case for His existence arguing from effect back to cause, then what exactly does Paul mean when he talks about instinct and knowing God within? At what point did unbelieving men have the law of God stamped upon their hearts and consciences? After they had enough “proof” so that now they could reject it? And would this mean there could potentially be people out in the world who will have an excuse as to why they can’t be held accountable because they never heard those arguments? They just didn’t know enough?

On the contrary, Paul clearly implies that men are born with that law upon their hearts. It isn’t stamped on there when the person realizes God exists so that now he can actively suppress God’s truth. He is held accountable to the truth he knows about God in his heart that he clearly sees in reality, what would be God’s creation.

Now certainly I would agree that the special revelation of Scripture provides us with the clearest understanding of who God is and provides the fullest knowledge of God than what men know from living as God’s creatures in His created world. Men learn about God through revelation as the Holy Spirit provides illumination. But that does not mean they do not know our God in their fallen, unbelieving state. Their intuitive knowledge of God, their understanding as image bearers of God living in His world, are those first principles that we use to call men to repentance and submission to the Gospel.

Babies During the Millennium

babyOver at Turretin Fan’s blog, a guest blogger attempts to employ some defeaters against premillennialism.

Infants and the Millennium – A Pre-Millennial Quadralemma

The author asks the question, “What happens to babies born during the millennial reign after the Return of Christ?”

He lays out four options and then attempts to explain from Scripture how each one is extremely problematic for premillennialists who teach that when Jesus returns, He will reign over a global, theocratic kingdom for a thousand years.

They are,

  1. Babies are born and some believe in Christ and are saved, others do not and are damned.
  2. Babies are born but none of them believe in Christ and they are not saved.
  3. Babies are born and all of them believe in Christ and are saved.
  4. No babies are born during the millennial reign.

I will address each one of his arguments, but if the Scriptural claims of the first objection can be answered, the remainder are irrelevant to any case being made against premillennialism.

Let me look at the first one in full,

1. Babies are born and some believe in Christ and are saved, others do not and are damned. The problem with this view is that scripture makes it clear that Christ will not return until all of his people have been brought in.

In 2nd Peter 3, Peter makes the argument that Christ has not returned yet, and that God has not yet judged the Earth because not all of God’s people have been saved, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” God waits until the full number of his people have been gathered.

In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus says of his own return that he will gather his elect from the entire Earth, “the four winds” North, East, South, West and from one end of Heaven to the other, both those on Earth and those in Heaven will be gathered together upon Christ’s return. All of God’s people will be gathered upon Christ’s return.

Finally, in Romans 11:25 scripture says that “a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” This hardening will end when Christ is reigning from Jerusalem and the temple has been rebuilt. If the hardening of Israel has ended this must mean that the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and if that’s the case, it would appear that no Gentiles will be saved during the millennial reign.

The objection is that ALL the people for whom Christ died will be brought to saving faith and after that last person receives Christ only then will He return. The idea being that once all the elect are brought to salvation the door is shut, as it were, and no person can be added to the number. That would mean no more human beings can be born after Christ’s return, or if they are born, they cannot be saved.

That deals a blow against premillennialism that understands that people are born during the millennium and their offspring will be the rebellious armies that are destroyed after Satan is released at the end of the millennium.

Three passages are presented that allegedly expose the flaws in the premillennial idea that babies are born and can be saved during the millennial reign of Christ. I’ll consider each one.

2 Peter 3. Second Peter is a letter specifically written to warn Christians about the infiltration of false teachers into the local church. Chapter 2 outlines their characteristics and warns believers to be on guard against such individuals.

In chapter 3, Peter reminds his readers that false teachers had always been around causing problems for God’s people. He further explains that false teachers will always continue to plague the church, but Christians are not to worry; their judgment is rapidly approaching. The reason why God is not slow is because He wants His people to be saved, and delays His judgment until all of those he wishes to save will be saved.

Two significant words should be examined. First, is the “coming” mentioned in 3:4 Christ’s actually second coming? In a sense, yes, but given the context of what it is Peter is addressing regarding the influence of false teacher, it is better to take this “coming” as a reference to His certain judgment that finally deals decisively with rebellious unbelievers. That happens at the end of the millennium.

Secondly is the phrase the “Day of the Lord” spoken about in 3:10. It is mistaken to automatically equate it to Christ’s second coming. Again, given the context of Peter describing how false teachers will be dealt with swiftly by God, I take this as being the final judgment of this age at the end of the millennium as described in Revelation 20:7 onward.

Hence, Peter’s words are not prohibiting the idea of babies being born and some saved during the millennium.

Matthew 24:29-31. Contextually in Matthew 24, the word “elect” is a technical description of the Jewish people who will be saved at the coming of Christ, not the “elect” as in all for whom the Father chose in eternity past and for whom Christ died. Taking that the elect spoken about here are exclusively the Jewish people who will be saved after the tribulation rather than ALL of the elect both Jews and Gentiles combined (a position Covenantalists often embrace by default), there is no problem with people being saved during the millennium.

Romans 11:25. It is assumed that the phrase “until the fulness of the gentiles comes in,” means the complete number of all gentiles who will come to salvation. So in other words, Israel’s partial hardening continues until all those gentiles God has chosen to save believe in faith. Once that happens, Christ returns, the Jewish hardening is lifted, and salvation is completed for all of God’s salvific purposes have been fulfilled.

However, the idea of “fulfilled” does not mean quantity, as in the total number of people, but more like quality, as in through Israel’s partial hardening, the gentiles are blessed. That is, gentiles are the recipients of Gospel blessing including salvation. That is what Romans 11:12 suggests when Paul writes, “Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!”

The word “fulfillment” is the same one used in 11:25 regarding the “fulness of the gentiles.” In 11:12, Paul explains that Israel’s rejection of Christ is riches for the world of the gentiles, in that the Gospel goes forth to all men everywhere in the world. If God is currently blessing the gentiles with the Gospel, how much more will He bless the Jews. Romans 11:25 says that happens once God has finished His purposes with the Gentiles.

The fulness of the gentiles being complete doesn’t mean there are no more people who could be born who will be saved. It means that God’s purpose with hardening the Jewish people during this time before the millennial will be completed.

babyOffering a response to those biblical objections in that first argument helps to dissolve the remaining three. I briefly respond to them,

2. Babies are born but none of them believe in Christ and they are not saved.

Citing from Isaiah 65:23-24, the objection states that this could not be an option for premillennialists. If we are to read Isaiah’s words in 65 literally, as well as Zechariah 14 and Micah 4, there has to be babies born during the millennium.

However, I don’t agree with the objection. I believe babies will be born during the millennium. Isaiah, Zechariah, and Micah are only a problem if the passages previously examined under objection 1 were genuinely a problem for the premillennial model, but they are not.

3. Babies are born and all of them believe in Christ and are saved.

As a premillennialist, I am at a lost as to why it is believed that objection is a dilemma for premillennialism. I know of no premillennialist who believes that. Again, it is only an objection if the points under the first argument cannot be answered.

4. No babies are born during the millennial reign.

Here is another point I disagree with as well and I’m left wondering why it is believed it is an objection. The author does appeal to Revelation 19:17-21 and states, “Revelation 19:17-21 describes the total destruction of all unbelievers upon Christ’s return. There will be none of God’s enemies left after Christ returns.” No, Revelation 19:17-21 does not describe the total destruction of ALL unbelievers upon Christ’s return, but the total destruction of ALL of Antichrist’s armies and those aligned with him against the people of the Lord, i.e., Israel.

Studies in Judges

judges9Next week will be a light week, it being Thanksgiving and all. The family is running around in Phoenix and the AZ desert, so besides from twittering, I’m not going to have anything on the blog.

A couple of years ago, I did an exposition on the books of Judges and Ruth for my volunteers. Doing a detailed study of the book caused it to become one of my favorites. There are some truly awesome stories within it’s pages.

I finally got all of the messages edited, and thought I would share with folks using Google Drive.

Hope it blesses your heart like it did mine.

Gleanings from Judges

Dispensationalism/Covenantalism Q and A

On a Facebook group, a fellow posted a list of questions he had for apologists Matt Slick of CARM and Andrew Rappaport of Striving for Eternity ministries. The questions were primarily directed at those two men and specifically centered around the systems of Dispensationalism and Covenantalism.

I asked if I could take a shot at offering my answers and the guy who posted them said sure. I spent a couple of hours on AWANA night in the TMS library compiling my responses. Seeing that I am stalled at the moment on my KJVO book review, I thought I would create a PDF and post it here if anyone else is interested.

There were a few questions I skipped, because they were too specific with Presbyterian WCF ideas, and I’m not a Presbyterian. The subject is kind of geeky, but deals primarily how we are to interpret the Bible and the interplay between the OT and the NT.

CovenantalismDispensationalism

Inerrancy from the Peanut Gallery

galleryI had a commenter leave a few challenges against the doctrine of inerrancy under a recent post of mine. He asked in such a way that he comes across pious and reverent of God’s Word, but I believe he is insincere.

Knowing that many readers will encounter similar individuals, I thought I would offer my responses here on the front page of the blog. I won’t respond to everything, but here are some selected comments.

It might be helpful for you to define what you mean by “inerrancy”?

I thought I provided a clear enough definition in my posts, but if a formal definition is required, inerrancy would simply be “The Bible is without error.”

Knowing that my detractor will be far from satisfied with such a simplistic and easy definition, I will expand upon it a bit more by citing Wayne Grudem. He writes at great length on the attributes of Scripture in his systematic theology [chapters 2-8, 47-140], and sums up the doctrine of inerrancy by stating,

We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Samuel 7:28; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, all words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 12:6; 119:89, 96; Proverbs 30:5; Matthew 24:35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17) [Grudem, 90].

The doctrine of inerrancy is brought into focus as we consider what the whole of Scripture teaches about itself. Inerrancy, then, does not exist as a stand alone doctrine, but is supported by the doctrine of inspiration and infallibility, doctrines affirmed throughout the entirety of the Bible. An inspired, or God breathed revelation, will be both infaillible and inerrant, because it reflects the character of the holy, truthful God who breathed out Scripture.

The Bible makes zero claims to inerrancy. Not one. Not for “the Bible,” not even for “scripture.” The claims to “inerrancy” are a human construct, not a biblical one. Not something “from God…” at least not in any direct manner. It is, at best, a belief reached using human reasoning, extrapolating the idea from (very little in) the Bible.

That is a typical claim by biblio-skeptics. Jack Rogers, who once fought against Harold Lindsell over the authority of Scripture, popularized the urban legend that the concept of inerrancy was an invention by Fundamentalists in the late 1800s and early 1900s when they were battling modernistic creep in the church.

But anyone who is just the wee bit familiar with church history knows that Christians have always believed in inerrancy because the Bible affirms it. The claim made by my detractor, that the Bible “makes zero claims to inerrancy,” causes me to wonder how much of the Bible he has actually read, or at least, paid attention to when he read it.

While it is true that the exact word “inerrancy” is not directly used in the Bible, the Bible presupposes the doctrine of inerrancy throughout its pages, and appeals to it as a final, infallible source of authority. Both Jews and Christians have historically affirmed that presupposition.

Time prevents me from fleshing this out in full, but to highlight a handful of significant truth:

The biblical writers, both in the OT and the NT, refer to the Bible as the “Word of God” or the “Word of the LORD,” and when speaking to the authority of Scripture, use such expressions as “it is written,” and “thus saith the Lord” hundreds of times. Also, the Scriptures are called “the law of the LORD,” “the testimony of the LORD,” “the commandments of the LORD,” and “the judgments of the LORD” throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Psalm 119, the longest Psalm that specifically exalts the authority of Scripture, describes the Bible multiple times by repeatedly using those descriptors and variations.

Coming to the NT, Jesus had an extremely high view of Scripture’s authority, infallibility, and inerrancy. He held the OT to be historically true, completely authoritative, and divinely inspired. He believed that the God of the OT was living, and the OT Scriptures were the teachings of the living God. When Jesus taught, it is clear He believed what Scripture said is what God Almighty had said.

Consider that Jesus treated the OT as genuine historical narrative, not allegory or moral tales. The Bible for Jesus recorded history that really happened in time and space. He refers to Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah (Matthew 24:37), Abraham (John 8:56), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24), Lot (Luke 17:28-32), Issac and Jacob (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28), the giving of manna (John 6:31, 49, 58), The serpent on the pole (John 3:14), David (Mark 2:25; 12:36; Luke 6:3-4; 20:42), Solomon (Matthew 6:29; Luke 11:31), Elijah (Luke 4:25-26), Elisha (Luke 4:27), Jonah (Matthew 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32) and Zechariah (Luke 11:51).  In fact, in Luke 11:51, Jesus had a clear sense of the scope and unity of biblical history when He says, “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”

Moreover, Jesus repeatedly refers to Moses as the law giver, (Matthew 8:4; 19:8; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:5; 12:26; Luke 5:14; 20:37; John 5:46; 7:19) and the historicity of the OT events. Jesus even appeals to Genesis 1 and 2 as the authority on what God has said about marriage and divorce. Additionally, he speaks of Noah and the worldwide flood (Matthew 24:37), the divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 11:23-24), and notes the demise of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:26-32).

He also held high the infallible authority of the OT to correct the Pharisees and Sadducees when they attempted to challenge Him, appealed to the OT as a guide to ethics, refuted the devil by appealing to the OT, and when Christ appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke says that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” (Luke 24:25-47), He showed how all the OT Scripture pointed to and were fulfilled in Him. All of those conversations would be questionable, if not entirely in doubt, if Jesus did not believe the Bible was inerrant.

The NT writers also had an equal view of the OT being their supreme authority. Without having to recount the many citations of the OT found in the key epistles of the NT, it is clear that all the apostles recognized the Scriptures were sufficiently inerrant as they recounted history and ethics.  They were considered the “very words of God,” (Romans 3:2).

Take for example Paul’s well-known proclamation about the Scriptures in his second letter to Timothy where he writes, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If the Scriptures are errant, there is no point in appealing to them in the fashion that Paul did. An errant Scripture has no real authority to offer any meaningful correction or training in righteousness because it is constantly in doubt.

The Bible is a human compilation. Humans decided that this Protestant collection of 66 books are “as Scripture” for us and we hold them to be sacred texts.

Regrettably, that comment is typical of many churched individuals in our day, and demonstrates a profound ignorance of church history throughout many so-called evangelical congregations.

The key problem with the objection, and coming from a person who insists he loves the Bible and has read and studied it for decades, is how the divine element involved in the formation of Scripture is absent or intentionally removed out of the discussion. If the Bible is God-breathed, as I just noted above, then God’s fingerprints are on the development, collection, transmission, and even preservation of those documents that are Scripture. God would hardly breathe out Scripture, and then allow it to fall through the cracks of time, becoming corrupted and thus uncertain or lost.

The objection merely fixates upon the fact men were involved with identifying the books that form the canon of both the OT and the NT. Yet it is seen in the very pages of Scripture that while men were the instruments in proclaiming and then documenting the Word of God that became what we know as Scripture, God’s Spirit was always involved in the process of its writing, and then its identification, and eventual transmission.

God wanted to communicate with His redeemed people, and He specifically brought them to be a “people of the book.” That is true both in the OT as well as in the NT. Paul says for example in Romans 3:2, that Israel was entrusted with the oracles of God. An entire scribal class within the tribe of Levi was developed that maintained the writings of the OT. The Levitical priests were to read and teach the Scripture to the people.

While the formation of the NT may had been slightly different, the Christians in the early church were also a people of the book, and they began gathering the writing of men they knew were apostles. Within the first century, Christians were collecting the writings of Paul, the four Gospels, as well as other epistles, and circulating them among the various churches where groups of Christians would also copy those letters. Those collections became identified as the beginnings of what is today our NT.

There has been much written on the subject of the canon, but I am not surprised that my detractor seems oblivious to those studies, because he has such a low view of the doctrine of infallibility. Those who are interested, will benefit greatly from Michael Kruger, who is probably one of the leading authorities on the development of the canon. As an introduction for those wishing to have a better grasp answering objections about the canon of Scripture, Dr. Kruger has written a series of ten articles addressing misconceptions about the NT canon. Those who wish to dig deeper into this topic will greatly benefit from his book, Canon Revisited.

Moving to one final response,

I had written in this post the following statement,

durstGod safeguards the transmission of His written revelation through the thousands of copies handwritten by His people, both during the time of the OT and the time of the NT.

My detractor, writing in rebuttal stated, Can we agree that this is an unsupported human opinion, not a fact, and not in any way at all directly biblical?

It is not entirely clear what he believes is “unsupported human opinion.” Is it my assertion about God safeguarding the transmission of His revelation? Is my detractor now saying God doesn’t, or is perhaps powerless to, safeguard the transmission of His revelation? Or is it that he doesn’t believe God did it through the means of thousands of copies handwritten by His people?

I would firmly maintain that God most definitely has the ability to safeguard the transmission of His revelation. I mean, if we acknowledge that God is our sovereign creator, sustainer, and savior, He most certainly has the power to keep His divine revelation as contained in the pages of Scripture in the hands of His people down through the course of history.

Additionally, I further maintain that God used the means of His people to faithfully copy His revelation during the time of the OT and NT. And, as anyone knows who has the least bit of familiarity with textual criticism, the people of God who made those faithful copies did a remarkable job – dare I even say “miraculous” like there was a divine hand directing the process. The copying was so complete and well-done that even with the numerous, but inconsequential, textual variants, we can know with 100% accuracy what God originally stated.

Now does that mean there are no variants that are problematic and are debated among Christians over the centuries. Of course not. But it does show what I originally asserted: God has safeguarded the transmission of His revelation as it is contained in Scripture, and He has done so faithfully over the course of many years with the use of people copying thousands of manuscripts.

Inerrancy Summit Sessions and Seminars

All of the main sessions and breakout seminars from the Shepherd’s Conference 2015 summit on biblical inerrancy  are now available online.

All of them can be found at the Master’s Seminary media hub located HERE.

The Domain of Truth blog has done us a favor and have linked each audio download at one place,

Inerrancy Summit Main Sessions

Inerrancy Summit Breakout Seminars

By the way, the main session linked at the Domain of Truth blog go immediately to the Vimeo videos of the sessions. If you want the MP3 audio, find the download at the TMS media hub.

I hope to be blogging a little bit on the doctrine of inerrancy here soon when I get caught up on other important and immediate chores. In the meantime, check out Michael Vlach’s message on presuppositionalism and inerrancy and Steve Lawson’s biographical sermon on the life of Tyndale. His message was absolutely enthralling for me.

And then David Farnell’s presentation on the dangers within evangelicalism against the doctrine of inerrancy is prophetic, as lobs hand grenades against well-known Christian apologists that we all respect who have severely compromised on these key doctrines to save face among academics. The audio of William Lane Craig denying key portions of Matthew’s account of the Resurrection narrative is staggering.

David gave the same presentation at a different apologetic conference in 2014, and the youtube version of that presentation is found HERE if you wish to see the pictures and quotes he mentioned.

Responding to Non-Inerrancy Challenges

settingitstraightI noted in a previous post that when I began blogging back 2005, one of the first blog duels I had was with a Unitarian heretic who was challenging the doctrine of inerrancy.

Come to find out the fellow had some friends who rushed to his side during our debate, I mean, dialog. I took a number of their challenges and responded to them in a couple of follow up posts for my blog.

I thought I would re-edit and remaster the material and combine them into this one post.

If God had so desired the Bible to be inerrant, there would be no flaws in the copies. Why would there be?

My detractor apparently does not understand the nature of the “errors” in question. He is making the assumption copyist errors have a detrimental impact on the message of Scripture. That they either cause God’s revelation to be clouded or lost altogether. That has never been the case. Copying errors happen in all handwritten documents. That includes extra-biblical ones as well. However, the vast amount of textual evidence we have for Scripture testifies to the consistency and continuity of God’s written revelation.

For example, after the Babylonian exile, three independent textual families grew from the Hebrew Scriptures: One in Babylon, another in Egypt (remember, a group of Jews left by the Babylonians migrated to Egypt – Jeremiah 41-43), and still another in Palestine. After the return from exile some 70 years later, all of the available copies of the Hebrew Bible were gathered up and compiled into a standard text. Even between three separate textual streams, after diligent comparison, the OT text was found to be still intact and God’s Word had not been lost.

We see the same thing with the NT documents, too. Textual scholars speak of the tenacity of those copying errors. In other words, once a copying error comes into the text, it never drops out. A copyist will note the discrepancies in the margin of his copy, and it becomes part of the transmission process. But, like I wrote, careful textual criticism can weed out those slight discrepancy to almost pure accuracy. Though we don’t have the original autograph, we have a close enough facsimile of it that we can be confident in God’s preservation.

You cannot prove that the Bible is inerrant by quoting the Bible itself!

My challenger raises the circularity fallacy. That if anyone appeals to the Bible as an authority to demonstrate the Bible’s authority, he is arguing in a circle. But what other source of authority would he recommend I quote? If God’s Word is what it claims to be, a divine revelation from God Himself, and it testifies to God’s nature, which He has established as trustworthy during His dealings with His redeemed people, why then can I not quote the Bible to demonstrate inerrancy?

The charge of circularity is misapplied. I would have been engaged in circularity if I had stated something like: The Bible is God’s Word, because The Bible says it is God’s Word; but, I didn’t do that. I specifically wrote that God’s Word is bound to God’s character and nature which He has personally revealed in space and time to eye witnesses. The Bible contains the testimony of those eye witnesses who saw God reveal Himself. For instance in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Furthermore, God has also consistently proven His faithfulness to His people. Psalm 78, for example, is a Psalm calling Israel back to remembering what God had done. God has proven His character by witnessing Himself to His own character – a character He has put on display by the acts He has performed. Thus, I can rightly conclude the Bible is God’s Word, because God has personally stated that it is. That is what 2 Timothy 3:16 means.

But, if my Unitarian challenger still insists I am arguing in a circle, then I would also call upon Jesus Himself who testified to the authenticity of God’s Word in His various sermons and discussions during His teaching ministry, as well as the testimony of God’s prophets and apostles, both of which bore the marks of being God’s messengers, see for example Paul’s own testimony concerning himself in 2 Corinthians 12:12.

I have no doubt that large portions of the Bible were edited by the Catholic Church for obvious reasons. Kings have kingdoms to protect, and only when you begin to view Scripture in the light of the politics of the day do the facts begin to speak for themselves.

Ah yes, the old conspiracy theory angle. How does one even justify such a conspiracy theory? Here in fact is a genuine example of exaggerated circularity. What proof exists to affirm his conviction that the Catholic Church intentionally altered the biblical texts? Who was involved with it? When did it take place? I am only guessing he means the ROMAN Catholic Church and not the little “c” catholic Church. If that is the case, the text of Scripture was affirmed and in circulation among God’s people several hundred years before the ROMAN Catholic Church named their first pope.

Additionally, here is another example where the KJV Only apologists and liberals merge in their philosophy of Scripture: both groups adhere to speculative conspiracy theories about how the Bible came into being. The KJV onlyist believes a cabal of nefarious heretics snuck false doctrine into the text. The liberals believe powerful political figures manipulated the text. But, the tinfoil hat view of textual criticism just does not stand up under the crushing weight of the historical evidence.

The want of original autographs is only one factor that invalidates the inerrantist position. The most damaging factor is the phenomena of the text itself, which is inconsistent with the high claims made on its behalf. (Note the thickness of Haley’s “Alleged Discrepancies.”)

First off, Haley’s work has been reprinted, and the newer edition is not nearly as thick as the commenter would have us believe. Also, Haley deals more with discrepancies between two historical accounts as recorded in the Bible, like harmonizing the four Gospel narratives or the similar accounts between the books of Samuel and Chronicles.

Critics of Scripture insist that differing historical records of the same event must all read the same, even if they are written by – as in the case of the Gospels – four different individuals. Hence, any apparent conflict between the narratives is automatically assumed to represent contradictory information, rather than complementary information. I have never understood that viewpoint. Do those individuals assume, let’s say, four different historians writing about the life of President Truman, must all read the same? It is a ridiculous criticism.

The Unitarian critic is doing what many non-inerrantists do and that is to confuse the inerrancy of the autographic text (the words of the document) with the inerrancy of the autographic codex (the physical document). The loss of the latter does not entail loss of the former. In other words, just because a document wears out, becomes soiled, damaged, and unreadable, does not mean the message of that document has been lost. If it has been faithfully copied, the autographic words still remain with us. There are very few of Geoffery Chaucer’s original, autographic writings available; but is there anyone who does not believe the printed edition I can purchase off Amazon represents what he originally wrote?

Both the OT and NT have been faithfully copied. Textual criticism has restored the original autographic words to near pristine fullness. Scholars may vigorously debate the authenticity of some of the key textual variants, but nothing has been lost because the full text, even with variants, is still in our possession, and the variants do nothing to harm or corrupt the true word of God. Propositional revelation still exists for God’s people to hear the voice of God.

It is possible to quote a source (such as the Bible) as authoritative without requiring that it be infallible. 

Non-inerrantists like to say how we quote from authoritative sources like an encyclopedia or even Wikipedia without them necessarily being “inerrant” or “infallible.”  But an encyclopedia never claims infallibility. Wikipedia even lets people change it in real time.

The Bible, however, is bound to the character of God. The comment suggests God could either be negligent in revealing correctly and truthfully what He wanted revealed, or his spirit-anointed people were mistaken in their reception of revelation, or God intentionally deceived, or God doesn’t care about the accuracy and truthfulness of his revelation. Moreover, if the Bible is like an encyclopedia that can be revised as more information comes to light to correct it, then the implication is the previous revelation was insufficient and God is still in the process of revealing Himself.

The oft-repeated quote from 2 Peter about how “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” really does not have much bearing on this whole process that was supposed to have occurred when the authors penned their documents. The 2 Peter text is talking about speech, not writing.

I am not sure if the person has read the passage carefully. Peter specifically says, knowing this first, no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). The revelation spoken by those holy men of God was written down in Scripture. That is Peter’s main point here. There is something more sure than just spiritual experience: It is the written Word of God.

It is my contention, as I draw this post to a close, that the non-inerrantist arguments with inerrantists like myself, is not so much over the certainty of whether the autograph’s are truly represented in the texts we use today. Rather, his disagreement is with the authority the inerrantist draws from the text itself. Inerrantists (read Bible-believing Christian, here) believe God’s Word is authoritative. With it, we have a standard of truth claims by which we can make judgments and evaluate our world. Most free thinkers, whether they have “faith” or not, don’t like truth claims meddling in their personal affairs.

Liberals, KJV Onlyists, and Inerrancy

kjvoBack in 2005, when I was a brand new blogger, I had occasion to interact with a Unitarian heretic on the nature of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. My Unitarian antagonist was drinking the postmodernist Kool-aid that truth is uncertain and not entirely, if at all, knowable, and for any Christian to say with strident confidence that the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant Word, is childishly naive.

He posted a few articles that gave the standard arguments against the doctrines of infallibility and inerrancy that have been soundly answered over the years, but he pretended did not exist, or were not worth his investment of time to engage.

At the time I was looking for post fodder for my fledgling blog. I was also interacting with a number of King James Onlyists on various internet forums. I began to notice several similarities between what the Unitarian heretic argued against the inerrancy of Scripture and what KJV onlyists argue for the exclusivity of the KJV as the only reliable English translation. One of the primary talking points was that we do not have the original autographs of Scripture, merely copies, and they have been corrupted over time. Even though the reason why the Unitarian heretic believed they were corrupted is different than why the KJVO believes they are corrupted, their arguments for their position share many common facets.  With that strange union in mind, I compiled a post about it.

The 2015 Shepherd’s Conference has been called a summit on the doctrine of inerrancy. This being the week leading up that summit, I want to repost my article I wrote on the subject some 10 years ago now, slightly updated and edited.

———

My Unitarian challenger alleges that the doctrine of inerrancy is erroneous. The reason being, he argues, is the fact the Christian church does not possess any of the original autographs written by the prophets and apostles. We don’t have Paul’s original epistle to the Colossians or John’s original Gospel, etc. All we have in our possession today are copies upon copies; and those copies are several hundred years removed from the first century.

In other words, no one can be absolutely sure what the Bible originally said, because unless God safeguarded the manuscript copyists from error, He never really intended to give the church an inerrant Bible. Thus, evangelical fundamentalists are mistaken to be so dogmatic about any of their convictions and the postmodern leanings of free thinking Unitarians are vindicated.

Now, in an odd twist, our Unitarian finds himself in agreement with some extremely strange bedfellows from the King James Version Only camp. That is because KJVO advocates hold to the same belief about the autographs as the liberals do. They claim we no longer have the autographs either and the copies have been corrupted.

However, rather than believing the Bible is errant and unreliable with its content, the KJVO advocate believes God’s Word is perfectly contained in one, infallible, purely preserved translation: the King James Version original published in 1611. Here we have two entirely different conclusions about the Bible, but the exact same starting point regarding the original writings.

How does a biblically thinking Christian approach the doctrine of inerrancy? Can we trust the Bible is inerrant even if we don’t have the original autographs? Or, must we appeal to a special translation that is supposedly marked with God’s hand of providence?

The doctrine of inerrancy is built upon three important pillars. Let’s consider them in order.

First, inerrancy is bound to the character of God. The Scriptures declare God’s desire to reveal Himself to men. Because we know God is holy, righteous, and incapable of lying, we are certain we can trust any revelation from Him as being truthful and accurate in all areas.

Some non-inerrantists may suggest the truthfulness of God’s revelation only pertains to spiritual truths, or even perhaps one central focus of Scripture that can be separated from the unbelievable portions. God, they will argue, is not concerned with the precision of historical information and other non-spiritual details. So that, when the Bible comes into conflict with man’s knowledge about science, archaeology, and other similar disciplines, it is concluded the Bible is probably in error. God didn’t care to preserve the accuracy of such facts anyway, so we are at liberty to change them if need be.

But, in response, we also know God is the sovereign Lord of all things, and that most definitely includes His revelation. If He has the absolute authority to create everything that exists, govern nations, raise up and put down kings and their societies, then God can certainly govern the accuracy of the details recorded by the writers of Scripture. Peter confirms God’s sovereign hand in recording Scripture when he writes, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

It is presumptuous to automatically conclude man’s speculative theories and ever-changing views of the world take precedent over the codified revelation given by the sovereign God of the universe.

This leads to a second pillar,

God safeguards the transmission of His written revelation through the thousands of copies handwritten by His people, both during the time of the OT and the time of the NT. The body of textual evidence for the Bible is compiled from hundreds upon thousands of entire manuscripts, portions of books, fragments of books, translations into various languages, historical citations and so forth, making it the most attested piece of ancient literature ever written.

It is correct to point out how every single biblical manuscript is copied from a previous copy, and each copy will contain discrepancies to some degree or another. However, those “discrepancies” are easily explainable, and the presence of copying errors have a proper historical, literary context within the biblical canon.

Before the invention of the Gutenberg press in the 1400s, all books and other important documents were handwritten. The one common occurrence with all handwritten documentation, especially documents transmitted by copying many times over several generations, like the Bible, is the duplication of copying mistakes. All human beings are prone to marginal error with anything they do, regardless of how talented a person may be. When it comes to copying a document, even one as valued as the Bible, people will still misspell words, miss a word here or there, repeat the same sentence and so on. Additionally, the text being copied may be damaged physically or maybe missing sections and it will contain copying errors made from the previous copier.

On the outset, numerous copies with many copying errors appear to be a serious dilemma for the Christian believing in a pure biblical text. It is at this point, once again, where the philosophies of liberal, non-inerrantists and KJV onlyists merge.

The non-inerrantist believes those copying errors demonstrate a hopeless corruption of the biblical text. Because the original autographs were lost, no one can be absolutely sure what those documents said. That means there is no real authoritative Bible today with any specific meaning to the text.

adulteryThe KJV onlyists, on the other hand, also believe copyist errors demonstrate corruption, but corruption by heretical men who wanted to distort God’s Word. Just like the Unitarian inerrancy denier, however, they too believe no one can rightly appeal to the original autographs because they have been lost. Only the original language texts from which the KJV was translated represent the true, original autographs.

Yet, contrary to both of those erroneous viewpoints, the sheer number of copies, and their “errors,” affirms the certainty of textual preservation. God protected His revelation by allowing the biblical documents to literally “explode” across the ancient world at different times and in different locations through its many copies. In this way, His revelation was safeguarded from any one group gathering up the Scriptures and altering the content.

Within the first 300 years of the Christian church, those copies of the Scriptures were so far flung there could be no organized effort to genuinely corrupt the Bible. The one side effect, however, is the presence of minor copying errors that could always be corrected.

That leads to a third pillar.

God uses the human discipline of textual criticism to recover the originality of His Word. People have a negative misconception about textual criticism. They falsely believe it implies criticizing the supernatural aspects of God’s Word, or that it undermines the authority of the Bible in general. That is not the case at all.

Genuine, thoughtful textual criticism involves experts examining all the available textual evidence for the Bible, carefully analyzing all the various copying errors and other similar discrepancies, and then recovering and restoring, to the best of their ability, what the original documents actually said. Some believe we can know within about 98% certainty what the originals actually contained with the remaining 2% being discernable by the reader.

More importantly, scholars have discovered over the last few hundred years as they have poured over all of the available textual evidence, that those copyist errors have a minimal impact upon the Bible as a whole. Both non-inerrantist and KJV advocates exaggerate the significance of those discrepancies. The non-inerrantists insist the details of the Bible have been lost so there is no true absolute authority to be found in Scripture, and the KJVO apologists insist God’s true Word is only to be found in one 17th century translation. In reality, both positions are horribly mistaken.

Yes, it is true the Scriptures we hold in our hands today are translations from copies removed several generations from the original autographs. However, God in His marvelous sovereignty has worked His providence to preserve His Word in those copies in spite of all the variety of discrepancies. Sure, we don’t have 100% pristine accuracy with the original autographs, but God’s people can be confident they hold God’s infallible and inerrant revelation in their hands.

There are many great resources for further study on this important doctrine of inerrancy.

A good place to start is with the online edition of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.

There are also many fine books on the subject.

Two classic works worth the read are:

The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture by Princeton great, B.B. Warfield. Cornelius Van Til wrote a lengthy introduction to this work that is also a fine treatment on inspiration and inerrancy.

And, Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler. This is a large collection of essays by various theologians highlighting different areas pertaining to the doctrine of inerrancy. The work was out of print for some time, but I believe it has recently be made available again.

There are also some simple introductions to the doctrine of Scripture in general.

From God to Us by Norman Geisler and William Nix

Scripture Alone by James White

From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, edited by Willams and Shaylor.
God’s Word in Our Hands – The Bible Preserved For Us, also edited by Williams and Shaylor. Both of these books compliment each other and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They both are a collection of essays on the doctrine of Scripture, preservation, translation and the transmission of the Bible. The book on preservation is probably one of the better modern treatments of that subject.

Some more advanced works include,

Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger

Inspiration and Canonicity of Scripture by R. Laird Harris

Holy Scripture – The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. 1 by David King. The entire three volumes by Webster and King is worth the purchase, but the first volume deals specifically with Scripture’s infallibility and authority.

The Text of the New Testament – Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration by Bruce Metzger.

And the first section in the late Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology entitled, A Word from Another World is a fine review of the doctrine of Scripture.

Two books that specifically address KJV onlyism, but are good overviews on the doctrine of Scripture are,

One Bible Only? edited by Beacham and Bauder and The King James Only Controversy by James White.