Skepticism and doubt toward the Bible

Discussion in 'Translations and Manuscripts' started by Jerusalem Blade, Aug 15, 2009.

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  1. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have seen it said here at PB recently that “99%” of orthodox Biblical scholars from properly accredited universities or colleges favor the CT or eclectic-type Greek texts (or, to put it negatively, texts which are not TR), and that may be the case, though I think the stat quoted is arbitrary and not scientifically adduced. But for argument’s sake let’s go with it anyway.

    Two years after the exodus from Egypt (Numbers 1:1), of the 603,550 males over 20 (Numbers 1:45, 46), but a tiny fraction of these adults entered into the promised land, for the mass of the people of Israel, Moses declared, hearkened to those 10 men who spied out the land and spoke not by faith but by human reason, telling the people it was madness to go against the mighty inhabitants dwelling in the land the LORD had promised them. Including grown women, we likely have 1 to 1½ million people. So there were only two (I’m omitting Moses, Aaron, and Miriam here) out of that number who exercised faith? That would be about 99.9999% – the vast majority – who did not proceed by faith, and were not approved of God. I bring this up only to show that following the majority does not always bear good fruit.

    I will proceed to give some quotes about the quality of modern evangelical scholarship – which I think the Reformed would be adequately represented by – as concerns the Bible.

    “A growing vanguard of young graduates of evangelical colleges who hold doctorates from non-evangelical divinity centers now question or disown inerrancy and the doctrine is held less consistently by evangelical faculties. ... Some retain the term and reassure supportive constituencies but nonetheless stretch the term’s meaning” (Carl F.H. Henry, “Conflict over Biblical Inerrancy,” Christianity Today, May 7, 1976).

    “Most people outside the evangelical community itself are totally unaware of the profound changes that have occurred within evangelicalism during the last several years – in the movement’s understanding of the inspiration and authority of Scripture ... evangelical theologians have begun looking at the Bible with a scrutiny reflecting their widespread acceptance of the principles of historical and literary criticism ... The position affirming that Scripture is inerrant or infallible in its teaching on matters of faith and conduct but not necessarily in all its assertions concerning history and the cosmos is gradually becoming ascendant among the most highly respected evangelical theologians. ... One might even suggest that the new generation of evangelicals is closer to Bonhoeffer, Barth and Brunner than to Hodge and Warfield on the inspiration and authority of Scripture” (Richard Quebedeaux, “The Evangelical: New Trends and Tensions,” Christianity and Crisis, Sept. 20, 1976, pp. 197-202).

    “I must regretfully conclude that the term evangelical has been so debased that it has lost its usefulness. ... Forty years ago the term evangelical represented those who were theologically orthodox and who held to a biblical inerrancy as one of the distinctives. ... Within a decade or so neoevangelicalism...was being assaulted from within by increasing skepticism with regard to biblical infallibility or inerrancy” (Harold Lindsell, The Bible in the Balance, 1979, p. 319).

    “Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on the inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of Scripture is completely undercut” (Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, 1983, p. 44).

    “My main concern is with those who profess to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and yet by, what I can only call, surreptitious and devious means, deny it. This is, surprisingly enough, a position that is taken widely in the evangelical world. Almost all of the literature which is produced in the evangelical world today falls into this category. In the October, 1985 issue of Christianity Today, (the very popular and probably most influential voice of evangelicals in America), a symposium on Bible criticism was featured. The articles were written by scholars from several evangelical seminaries. Not one of the participants in that symposium in Christianity Today was prepared to reject higher criticism. All came to its defense. It became evident that all the scholars from the leading seminaries in this country held to a form of higher criticism. 
 These men claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. At the same time they adopt higher critical methods in the explanation of the Scriptures. This has become so common in evangelical circles that it is almost impossible to find an evangelical professor in the theological schools of our land and abroad who still holds uncompromisingly to the doctrine of the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures. The insidious danger is that higher criticism is promoted by those who claim to believe in infallible inspiration.” Herman C. Hanko, The Battle for the Bible, 1993, p. 3).​

    And what is the impact on textual studies and text critics (not to mention now the trickle-down to the “laity”)? This is a sampling of text critics in the 20th century:

    “The ultimate text, if ever there was one that deserves to be so called, is for ever irrecoverable” (F.C. Conybeare, History of New Testament Criticism, 1910, p. 129)

    “In spite of the claims of Westcott and Hort and of van Soden, we do not know the original form of the gospels, and it is quite likely that we never shall” (Kirsopp Lake, Family 13, The Ferrar Group, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1941, p. vii).

    “…it is generally recognized that the original text of the Bible cannot be recovered” (R.M. Grant. “The Bible of Theophilus of Antioch,” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 66, 1947, p. 173).

    “The textual history that the Westcott-Hort text represents is no longer tenable in the light of newer discoveries and fuller textual analysis. In the effort to construct a congruent history, our failure suggests that we have lost the way, that we have reached a dead end, and that only a new and different insight will enable us to break through (Kenneth Clark, “Today’s Problems,” New Testament Manuscript Studies, edited by Parvis and Wikgren, 1950, p. 161).

    “…the optimism of the earlier editors has given way to that skepticisim which inclines towards regarding ‘the original text’ as an unattainable mirage” (G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles, 1953, p. 9).

    “In general, the whole thing is limited to probability judgments; the original text of the New Testament, according to its nature, must remain a hypothesis” (H Greeven, Der Urtext des Neuen Testaments, 1960, p. 20, cited in Edward Hills, The King James Version Defended, p. 67.

    “... so far, the twentieth century has been a period characterized by general pessimism about the possibility of recovering the original text by objective criteria” (H.H. Oliver, 1962, p. 308; cited in Eldon Epp, “Decision Points in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1993, p. 25).

    “The primary goal of New Testament textual study remains the recovery of what the New Testament writers wrote. We have already suggested that to achieve this goal is well nigh impossible. Therefore, we must be content with what Reinhold Niebuhr and others have called, in other contexts, an ‘impossible possibility’ ” (R.M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, 1963, p. 51).

    “…every textual critic knows that this similarity of text indicates, rather, that we have made little progress in textual theory since Westcott-Hort; that we simply do not know how to make a definitive determination as to what the best text is; that we do not have a clear picture of the transmission and alternation of the text in the first few centuries; and accordingly, that the Westcott-Hort kind of text has maintained its dominant position largely by default” (Eldon J. Epp, “The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 43, 1974, pp. 390-391).

    “We face a crisis over methodology in NT textual criticism. ... Von Soden and B.H. Streeter and a host of others announced and defended their theories of the NT text, but none has stood the tests of criticism or of time. ... [F]ollowing Westcott-Hort but beginning particularly with C.H. Turner (1923ff.), M.-J. Langrange (1935), G.D. Kilpatrick (1943ff.), A.F.J. Klijn (1949), and J.K. Elliot (1972ff.), a new crisis of the criteria became prominent and is very much with us today: a duel between external and internal criteria and the widespread uncertainty as to precisely what kind of compromise ought to or can be worked out between them. The temporary ‘cease-fire’ that most—but certainly not all—textual critics have agreed upon is called a ‘moderate’ or ‘reasoned’ eclecticism ... the literature of the past two or three decades is replete with controversy over the eclectic method, or at least is abundant with evidence of the frustration that accompanies its use...” (Eldon Epp, “Decision Points in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1993, pp. 39-41).

    “…we no longer think of Westcott-Hort’s ‘Neutral’ text as neutral; we no longer think of their ‘Western’ text as Western or as uniting the textual elements they selected; and, of course, we no longer think so simplistically or so confidently about recovering ‘the New Testament in the Original Greek.’…We remain largely in the dark as to how we might reconstruct the textual history that has left in its wake—in the form of MSS and fragments—numerous pieces of a puzzle that we seem incapable of fitting together. Westcott-Hort, von Soden, and others had sweeping theories (which we have largely rejected) to undergird their critical texts, but we seem now to have no such theories and no plausible sketches of the early history of the text that are widely accepted. What progress, then, have we made? Are we more advanced than our predecessors when, after showing their theories to be unacceptable, we offer no such theories at all to vindicate our accepted text?” (Eldon J. Epp, “A Continuing Interlude in NT Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, (Eerdman’s, 1993), pp. 114, 115).​

    Jakob Van Bruggen scrutinized these developments in his analysis of the failure of 20th century textual criticism, The Ancient Text of the New Testament, in the first section, "The Last Certainty of New Testament Textual Criticism",

    Among all uncertainties of this 20th century, we, however, can point to one great, lasting certainty in the modern textual criticism — a certainty that serves as starting point and keeps stimulating much conscientious work and constant research. One can even say that the modern textual criticism of the New Testament is based on the one fundamental conviction that the true text of the New Testament is at least not found in the great majority of the manuscripts. The text which the Greek church has read for more than 1000 years, and which the churches of the Reformation have followed for centuries in their Bible translations, is now with certainty regarded as defective and deficient: a text to be rejected. This negative certainty has grown in the 18th century since Mill, Bentley, Wettstein, Semler, and Griesbach. It has found expression in text‑editions of the 19th century. From the close of that century until now, it has become visible for the Bible‑reading community: in 1881 the Revised Version in England no longer followed the current Greek text and in the 20th century the same applies for new translations in other countries. The churches are becoming aware that the text of centuries is replaced by the text of yesterday: the Nestle text.

    This rejection of the traditional text, that is the text preserved and handed down in the churches, is hardly written or thought about any more in the 20th century: it is a fait accompli. To hear the arguments for this rejection one must go back to the 19th century, back to the archives. Our century is accustomed to the disregard of the text that is indicated with names such as: Byzantine, Antiochene, Koine, Syrian, or Ecclesiastical. Already for more than 100 years the certainty that this type of text is inferior has been taken for granted. Yet certainty about a better, superior text‑type has failed to come during this long time. The heritage of the 19th century criticism was a solitary certainty — the certainty of the inferiority of this "traditional text". And it remains to be seen whether the 20th century will have a new, second certainty to offer as a heritage of its own.​

    We have seen that the 20th century did not produce any certainties of worth in its textual enterprises, but only growing skepticism and doubt, which, though bravely resisted by many in both pulpit and pew, insidiously permeates almost all who interest themselves in textual matters, for if the experts are doubting and skeptical, what can the regular believers do?

    To answer that rhetorical question: first, we can dump the false certainties and uncertainties of the rationalistic text enterprise, and proceed by faith, for our Bible is a supernatural book and it is not to be ascertained by mere natural man’s methods.

    So what if “99%” of scholars in seminaries today prefer the fruit of the German higher criticism’s methods, and disdain the “tiny fringe minority” who hold that God did actually promise to preserve His Book for His people, and did also perform what He promised? With Caleb and Joshua we stand, though all Israel be ready to stone us!

    For those interested in pursuing this from a believing point of view, a list of topics may be seen here, and especially these threads:

    Finally, I will let Harvard text critic, E. F. Hills, have a say:

    Has the text of the New Testament, like those of other ancient books, been damaged during its voyage over the seas of time? Ought the same methods of textual criticism to be applied to it that are applied to the texts of other ancient books? These are questions which the following pages will endeavor to answer. An earnest effort will be made to convince the Christian reader that this is a matter to which he must attend. For in the realm of New Testament textual criticism as well as in other fields the presuppositions of modern thought are hostile to the historic Christian faith and will destroy it if their fatal operation is not checked. If faithful Christians, therefore, would defend their sacred religion against this danger, they must forsake the foundations of unbelieving thought and build upon their faith, a faith that rests entirely on the solid rock of holy Scripture. And when they do this in the sphere of New Testament textual criticism, they will find themselves led back step by step (perhaps, at first, against their wills) to the text of the Protestant Reformation, namely, that form of New Testament text which underlies the King James Version and the other early Protestant translations. (The King James Version Defended, page 1)​

    Perhaps it was Dr. Ted Letis who coined the phrase, the “post-critical” era of textual studies. Seeing the utter bankruptcy of the discipline to date, it is time to move on in faith, as – I say it again – did Caleb and Joshua.

    [I owe David Cloud and his books, The Bible Version Question/Answer Database, and Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions, for some of the quotes shown here. Cloud is a valuable scholar and researcher in textual matters, notwithstanding his IFB orientation.]
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    In your first two paragraphs, you are not making an analogy equating those that favor the ESV with those that lacked faith in the desert, are you? I suppose the TR advocates make up the 2 spies?

    For an irenic post, that is a bad analogy to start with.
  3. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I realize I have not dealt with the Majority or Byzantine Text in the above, although I have in-depth in the thread link (given above), "Answering Alan Kurschner of aomin".

    We King James advocates (I do not say King James Only, please note, for my view is clearly more nuanced) build upon the excellent work of the MT / Byz while going a step further — which step, I must say, the Byz folks (such as Dr. Robinson) do not accept as valid — a step of faith in God's providential preservation.

    So while the Byzantine text is far superior to the CT or ET, it is still — per its own advocates — provisional. In other words, the Byz advocates do not yet have a complete and settled Bible to give us, and it is likely they will not before the Lord returns. While it is far better than the CT & ET, it does not satisfy those of us who are taking the Lord at His word when He promised to preserve His Scripture (Ps 12:6, 7; Isa 59:21), and every word that we must live by (Mt 4:4), "according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3).

    I am sometimes ridiculed for living by faith in this area of my walk, but I will continue so, and I'll see you at the resurrection.

    The things that are coming in the days ahead, I will need to live by this faith. You may take what you will from me, but not the word of my God, for it I live by, and if need be, die by.

    It is my sword in the warfare, what Bunyan called "a right Jerusalem blade". And I go nowhere without my sword. His word is also that which is magnified above all His name (Ps 138:2), and

    The name of the Lord is a strong tower:
    the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
    (Pr 18:10)​
  4. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Hi Steve

    I've been a member here for years, and I have never seen anyone make that statement. Do you have a link?

  5. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I think Steve's point is simply that noting that 99% of scholars agree on something does not mean it is correct. It is a helpful thing to remember even if I don't agree with all of Steve's presentation.

    I'm trying to offer a helpful critique of your approach here in my observations so please read it in that light.

    I think what you're trying to argue above is that the reason why people have lost faith in the inerrancy of the Scriptures is because of textual studies and text critics.

    If find the juxtaposition of the quotes next to each other troubling because you have not demonstrated a proximate relationship between one set of quotes and the other.

    The development of heterodoxy, as you know, is very complex and doesn't lend itself to drawing of straight lines. The abandonment of inerrancy at Fuller, for instance, is of a different species than others and not every development of heterodoxy can be neatly traced to people selling out to textual criticism.

    I think you need to be more careful in your selection of quotes or try to argue for a general principle that might be the root of both problems rather than assuming that the prior flows from the former.

    I think I would generally agree that the approaches in one discipline of theological studies compared with the approach to textual criticism sometimes bear a common genetic ancestor but I haven't been convinced that the problems began with textual criticism. It seems to me that Enlightment philosophy is more basic to the two.
  6. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    The example of Caleb and Joshua, as Rich surmised, illustrates that numbers, even great numbers, do not necessarily warrant the stamp of approval, as in the case cited. That the two approved proceeded on faith while the rest did not, further illustrates my contention that exercising faith in a matter that appears to reason to be foolish may indeed be a wisdom that surpasses mere reason. As to the ESV folks being represented by unbelieving Israel, that would indeed be far from irenic, but that was not my point, for I have gone on record (scroll down just a little to the paragraph beginning “An important point”) as saying that ESVs are legitimate Bibles whose preservation has been adequate for the saving of souls and the sustaining of churches. Those who hold to them do indeed have faith in God’s words, and His saving mercies in Christ. The matter of the AV advocates proceeding by faith in the further issue of the TR reflecting God’s providential preservation, where the ESV folks would not go that far, is meant to illustrate that some hold to a version of the Bible by faith in God’s promises, while those who do not proceed by faith in that particular preservation have a Bible which the text critics exhibit skepticism and doubt toward. Sorry if I was not clear in how I put it.

    Rich, I appreciate your irenic and thoughtful remarks. You are right that this is a more complex topic that my remarks do not do full justice to.

    Where, in the post-Reformation centuries, does heterodoxy originate? With the relinquishing of the doctrine of the Bible’s inspiration by God, and then in a cascading loss of faith in biblical infallibility / inerrancy, or, on the other hand, with a rationalistic approach to textual studies, or from other factors, and possibly a combination of these and many others? Or, as you surmise, it primarily comes from the fountainhead of Enlightenment philosophy?

    Rome did indeed seek to undermine the Reformation’s dependence on the Scripture alone, and through them by faith alone in Christ alone. They sought to execute this work of undermining by bringing forth variants from other manuscripts in the Vatican library that the Reformers eschewed as being unreliable, and also by seeking to attack their Hebrew Scriptures over the issue of the vowel points. For the Catholics their Tradition was above the Bible, and the church had – they said – given birth to the Bible. The Reformer’s view of the authority of God’s word in the Bible was a lethal attack on the very foundations of Rome.

    I think Rome’s attack on the texts predated the full bloom of the Enlightenment by perhaps a little less than a century. Richard Simon (1638-1712), a Catholic scholar, is considered by Metzger as perhaps the father of textual criticism – highly critical of the Bible (OT & New) in the vein of Metzger. But then John Mill (1645-1708) brought Enlightenment / rationalistic thought to bear upon the Bible, and he is considered one of the very first textual critics in the modern sense of the term. So yes, the spirit of the age – the philosophy of the Enlightenment – in which reason was held to be the primary source and legitimacy for authority, was the immediate genesis of the heterodoxy that would come to fruition in the church in centuries to follow.

    This development of textual criticism according to rationalistic principles – as opposed to the faith principles of the Reformers – would naturally result in views antagonistic to the Reformation churches’ stand on divine inspiration and God’s providential preservation of the Scriptures.

    I would say the watershed was the illicit production of the 1881 Revised Greek Text of Westcott and Hort (I say “illicit” due to their openly rebelling against the rules laid upon them by the commissioning authority of the CoE, and later threatening to quit when a Unitarian who flaunted disdain for the deity of Christ was to be removed from the committee due to the popular uproar in England); as I was saying, the watershed was this production, which impacted all the Christian world. One consequence of this work was the conversion of B.B. Warfield to the ranks of the defenders of it, and the German text-critical presuppositions underlying it (though he was previously kin to these through his education at the University of Leipzig in the 1870s). Shortly after this, following Hort, Warfield declared war on the Traditional Text (see here, and then, for an analysis, here).

    I think my point that 99% of scholars today favor Warfield’s approach – though that may have to come down to perhaps 70% or 80% if we take into account the Byz / MT school, which is not in the CT /ET camp’s rationalistic approach to determining the Biblical text, is correct. But among the laity – the common people – a large number use the King James Bible. I see (checking the Bible sales rankings on the web) that for dollar sales the NIV is 1st, KJV 2nd, NKJV 3rd; for unit sales it goes NIV, NKJV, KJV. The “common people” have a different viewpoint regarding the Bible than the academics, and it would be foolish to say the academics are in the right.

    Rich, does the testimony of the text critics – and Epp is a prominent person in their ranks today – have significance for the status of the stability of the critical / eclectic text? I won’t use the word “legitimacy” as in the main it contains the NT – and we here at PB have been around that bush before! – though I could use the term ‘reliability of its variants’. Surely the testimony of the critics in moments of candor speaks loudly!

    I say skepticism or doubt toward the Bible is not warranted. This is the line I take with Muslim apologists who attack the CT version of the Bible, and what I will say to Ehrman, after I finish studying his approach, for my defense of the King James and the Textus Receptus has a different method than defenses of the other textforms. I have yet to study the Ehrman – White debate(s), and Ehrman’s books, being so caught up in studying and preaching through Revelation, though I ask the Lord for time to do that also.

    We Reformed folks are not at war with one another, no not even over the textforms and translations (though sadly some obsess over it in their minds, and cannot quench the compulsion to fight, wrangle, and humiliate), for our differing in this is peripheral to our unity in the Spirit and Word of our Lord, as we advance His kingdom and cause. Who we are at war with is those who deny the validity of God’s Word, and go for the jugular of our Faith, and if they cannot get us there (and they cannot), the worst they can do is kill the body, for they cannot harm the soul. The “civilized Christian West” has been at ease for a long time, but not much longer. We will be purified.

    So my war is with the detractors of the word of our God – not with those who differ as to its versions – and this textual business is but a tool of defense in our witness to Christ the king, His coming great judgment of the wicked and reward of the faithful, and His saving mercy to whosoever will come to Him for pardon full and free.
  7. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    If an individual maintains "inerrancy," he holds that the text is without error. If he insists that it is not possible to recover the original text of the Bible, inerrancy can't be made to apply. E.g., NIV renders 1 Samuel 13:1, "Saul was thirty years old when he became king," but claims, "A few late manuscripts of the Septuagint; Hebrew does not have thirty." If the original text is unrecoverable then inerrancy of that original text is a mere ideal of no practical consequence.
  8. ThomasCartwright

    ThomasCartwright Puritan Board Freshman

    Leading CT textual critic, Dan Wallace accepts that, “New Testament textual criticism was born as a polemic against Protestants, intended to show that they couldn’t really trust the Bible!” He also admits that the Divines based their doctrine of perfect preservation on the TR,

    The liberal writer, McCabe writing in 1897 agrees that the Westminster divines had assumes providential preservation of all the words by sneering,
    It was about another century before Rome refined a weapon to combat Sola Scriptura at the hands of Romanist priest, Richard Simon (1638-1712) through “Textual Criticism.” Baird tells us, “Simon sharpened historical criticism into a weapon that could be used in the attack on Protestantism’s most fundamental error: the doctrine of Sola Scriptura .” Indeed, Simon himself explains plainly his purpose,

  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    My point is that not all forms of abandonment of inerrancy find their proximate root in textual critical issues. The quotes provided above don't necessarily "match up". In other words, it would need to be demonstrated that the set of quotes that spoke about inerrancy above, had some genetic basis in somebody doubting the exact words that were in the Bible and, therefore, coming up with another theory of inerrancy.

    In fact, some theories of inerrancy don't doubt, in the least, what Paul is saying but they believe that God did the best job he could in communicating Truth to a fallible human instrument and, consequently, the text is bounded and only inerrant "as far as it goes." How can this view of innerancy be shown to be genetically spawned by the use of the CT? In fact, a person could be fully convinced of the word for word Providential accuracy of the text as inspired and still doubt inerrancy as the orthodox define it.
  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Thanks for the response Steve.

    I asked my question and will follow up now, after your post, because I'm wondering if it is Enlightenment thinking that is really the problem and that you might see the abandonment of the TR as but one of many symptoms associated with it.

    In other words, it wouldn't really be satisfying, in the end, to have somebody still inconsistently hold to the TR but apply Enlightenment thinking in how he translates it? In fact, we see scores of people today that don't doubt the words but, as Paul noted, twist those words to the destruction of others.

    Is it fair to ascertain that you probably consider most Reformed people to be inconsistent? That is to say, they generally have a Reformed thought process and methodology in other areas but, on Textual Issues, you see them sort of acceding to modernist methods on this point?

    I'll admit my own going back and forth on this point. The Reformed have always maintained a sort a view of the image of God where the image of God was lost in a narrow sense in the Fall but preserved in the broad sense.

    I believe that man has retained much of his majesty from the image but uses his gifts in rebellion against his sovereign. Kuyper even has masterful imagery of an Admiral who switches allegiances and does not lose the Armada he commands but turns that Armada back on God. I see that in Enlightenment thinking.

    Yet, for all the hatred of God that permeates it all, man still produces marvelous things in spite of himself: medicine, modern technology, some insights into philosophy, etc. Calvin even disparaged the idea that we would see all of that as the ravings of lunatics and not see the Divine image in the glory that man produces in spite of not giving God the credit for it.

    I wonder, sometimes, then, if the argument against CT goes to far in assuming that the only thing that fallen men can produce when they put their minds to something is error. Is there not the possibility that God could even thwart their flawed methodology and, by the use of a crooked stick, draw a straight line?

    I understand the need to keep the presuppositions of the Enlightenment at arms' length but I struggle with the fact that I know that God's image, though marred, is still in the haters of God and they do Him glory in spite of themselves.
  11. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    First, I see I didn’t answer to this earlier saying of yours,

    I think what you're trying to argue above [in the two sets of quotes in the OP –SMR] is that the reason why people have lost faith in the inerrancy of the Scriptures is because of textual studies and text critics.

    I find the juxtaposition of the quotes next to each other troubling because you have not demonstrated a proximate relationship between one set of quotes and the other.​

    You’re right; it’s not this – therefore that, for it’s hard to tell what precedes what in this vicious cycle of academic deterioration. It may be I have again been unclear. My first point was to say it is no big deal “99%” of academics and scholars disdain the TR and the AV, as their entire text critical enterprise is in disarray – is bankrupt! – insofar as succeeding at the goal of determining the autographs. So whatever they think is of little consequence to me. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but a lot of money has gone down the drain of this industry, and a lot of damage has been done to the church. The schools are teaching material that disavows Biblical inspiration and infallibility, and are churning out teachers and pastors to disseminate this stuff through the church. So, the new generation of text critics follow their teachers, just as Ehrman has followed Metzger, though the son waxes stronger and more destructive than the father. Who knows that as regards the ESV’s reading (following Vaticanus) of Asaph and Amos (instead of Asa and Amon) as Christ’s forebearers in Matthew 1:7, 10, Metzger says that Matthew erred due to drawing upon faulty scribal lists rather than consulting the OT (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd Ed, p. 1). No doctrine of inspiration with this guy (contradicting 2 Tim 3:16)!

    But how did it come to pass that our schools now teach this material – and Metzger remains one of the top “experts” whose books are required texts – inseminating generations with alien doctrine? I’m on about this now due to repeated remarks that the distinctives of the AV / TR advocates comprise a meager 1% (if that), a tiny fraction of what passes muster in the respected, accredited scholastic institutions of Christendom, and therefore this fanatical and ignorant fundamentalist fringe must be in nowheresville as regards intellectual credibility.

    Now when I look at the scholastic institutions through the eyes of commentators and observers of the Christian scene, I see they are not as they are touted. So how did they get this way, so many to no longer believe the Scriptures are inspired and infallible? What is the cause? Well, where did it start? Did it not start, at least in recent centuries, with Rome? Yes, it started even in the 1st and 2nd centuries, and those seeds of corrupting the Scriptures then are bearing their most abundant fruit now!

    This is why I gave the quotes from the text critics, to show the fruit in their shattered confidence that they could – with their fervently-held methodologies – arrive at the words God had written for our comfort and edification, in some sort of intact form.

    So I should care if Christian academia, as well text criticism, looks down on my faith in God’s promises? They have nothing better to offer me.


    Going to your last post, Rich, yes, I do see, as Hills put it in the quote of his above, that “the presuppositions of modern thought [which] are hostile to the historic Christian faith and will destroy it if their fatal operation is not checked” are inconsistently used by the 21st century church to its great harm. So intense and pervasive has been the poisoning of minds against the Bible of the Reformation church that many may not ever recover a solid faith in their Bibles again – as an intact work inspired and preserved by God. One of Erhman’s lines is (in effect), “If your ‘God’ didn’t preserve his word it makes no sense that he inspired it in the first place, seeing as it’s of so little apparent worth to him.” You haven’t heard the last of his attacks.

    As far as “Enlightenment thinking” translating the Bible (the TR), it is not the use of reason to translate that is wrong – for our reason, our intellectual faculty is a gift of God – but our reason used apart from the Word and Spirit of Christ and illuminated by them, that leads to error.

    I think you are saying that even fallen man, by virtue of being made in the image of God, and that image still somewhat extant in him, is capable of producing good, such as discerning authentic Scripture, despite using flawed methodology. Do I have that right? I may not. But I will proceed as though I do (you will correct me if I am wrong, I trust).

    I find the flaw in that thinking as follows: the men who originated and developed the field of rationalistic textual criticism, adopted by the Germans, and then imported wholesale into the critical philosophy and text of Westcott and Hort, and from there into all modern studies – these original men held (with rare exceptions) an anti-supernatural bias: miracles are untrue, Jesus Christ was not God manifest in the flesh (and get rid of that verse in 1 Tim 3:16!), there is no personal god and no personal devil (away with such superstitions!), thus there is no supernatural aspect to either the writing or transmission of the Bible. When these men, with this thinking, put their hands to the text, they will naturally gravitate away from the cares and values of the church – into whose care the Bible was committed, just as it was committed into the care of the priests of the OT – and they will adjudge the genuineness or falsity of various readings, variants, texts according to a methodology not neutral but hostile to the Faith. They will not have the spiritual or intellectual tools to properly deal with the Deposit they have gotten hold of. Like a group of men given to cut the rarest of diamonds, say, around 7,000 carats uncut – almost twice as large as the Cullinan Diamonds (3,106 uncut) – and the tools they use would be a sledgehammer and rock chisel. They’ll cut it, alright, but they’ll destroy it, or at least what it could have been, because their tools and philosophy are not adequate for the job. Or to use another figure. You have a new Mercedes Benz with a loose sparkplug; you take it to a village blacksmith in the forests of Australia who has never seen a car, and tell him to fix it. He does not have the tools or the knowledge to put his hand to the car. He cannot but hurt it.

    Can men who do not believe in God, or in the word this God inspired men to record, be qualified to put their hands to it? Nay, men who hate even the idea of this God and His kingdom of righteousness, can they be accounted worthy to put their hands to His Book and tell others what is true and false with regard to it?

    Now these men may be able to do things which pertain to the flesh, such as cook a good soup, write good poetry, build a good bridge, conceive of and make computers, fly into outer space, etc etc. But can they discern the name of the Lord, or that which is magnified by Him above all His name, to wit, His word? (Ps 138:2)

    They may be able to literarily criticize worldly books, but what have they to do with the Book of the Sovereign of Heaven and earth, being His avowed enemies, and loathing His commandments?

    But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?....

    Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. (Ps 50:16, 22)​

    We know that the preservation of God’s word is part of His covenant, per Isaiah 59:21. Yes, as you say, Rich, God can with “a crooked stick, draw a straight line”, but this business of the integrity of His word really is part of His covenant – His word of promise to the bride of His Son – and there are threats made to those who add or take away from what He has said, violating His word of promise. I have seen this mocked and used to heap ridicule upon the AV people who bring it up, but it is a matter truly of life and death. To keep God’s promises concerning His word men and women have risked and suffered being burned at the stake, imprisoned, tortured, executed in various ways.

    Which is not to say that those not culpable of mutilating His Scripture but ignorantly / innocently use, sell, publish it etc will suffer judgment – no, not at all, these are victims of the wickedness, not the perps – but those who with evil hearts of unbelief think to put their hands on God’s word to His people and make its integrity to suffer by virtue of their supposed “wisdom” exercised upon it, we will see a great multitude quail in terror on the Day of Fire for this crime against the Deity and His kingdom.

    Kuyper’s turncoat Admiral may have started out bearing, however faintly, the image of God, but upon his attack against the Deity that image was transformed into the image of the dragon and ancient serpent, Satan, for he has now become the child of the devil (Matt 13:38; John 8:44; 10:10), and the bearer of his foul image.

    Lest I hear again (not from you, Rich, who have conducted yourself godly and carefully in these things) tired cavils against Erasmus (since we are speaking of the ungodly putting their hand to the Scriptures), I would steer sincere inquirers into these things to consider the words of Merle D’Aubigné, the Reformation historian (converted to the Faith, I learned recently, by Robert Haldane), on Erasmus. Read pages 41, 42ff of his, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. On p. 42 he quotes Erasmus,

    ”The most exalted aim in the revival of philosophical studies,” said he, “will be to obtain a knowledge of the pure and simple Christianity of the Bible” ... “I am firmly resolved,” said he again, “to die in the study of the Scriptures; in them are all my joy and all my peace.” “The sum of all Christian philosophy,” said he on another occasion, “amounts to this: to place all our hopes in God alone, who by his free grace, without any merit of our own, gives us every thing through Christ Jesus; to know that we are redeemed through the death of his Son; to be dead to worldly lusts; and to walk in conformity with his doctrine and example, not only injuring no man, but doing good to all; to support our trials patiently in the hope of a future reward; and finally, to claim no merit to ourselves on account of our virtues, but to give thanks to God for all our strength and all our works. This is what should be instilled into man, until it becomes a second nature.”​

    On page 41 D’Aubigné details Erasmus’ attacks on the Roman Catholic organization (pardon me for not calling it “church”). More on Erasmus here. Despite his failing to separate from apostate Rome, and was not a good Calvinist (as Luther made clear), he was a godly Christian, and died among his Protestant friends.

    Back to the wicked. Do we bring our pregnant wives to doctors who specialize solely in abortions to be their Ob/Gyns? What madness! Why do we then bring God’s holy Word to His enemies to butcher it?

    “Oh, but they are experts in the languages, they are knowledgeable regarding the history of the manuscripts!” Abortionists are experts in their trade also, and they know the human body as doctors, but they are no friends of the babies! Dumpsters rank with their blood testify to that. Unbelieving text critics are no friends of Christ, and have no love for His word, neither for the welfare of God’s children. The hurt of believers confused and wavering in confidence over what is reliable in the Bible testifies to that. Is not the word that God spoke and had inscripturated for the comfort, edification, and life of His beloved children precious – as precious as our children?

    Because God in His kind providence has given gifts to men, which bear fruit in the blessings of our civilization, and give us a high standard of living, does not mean that fallen men can do anything in the realm of discerning spiritual things, among which are His word. To deal with it is the prerogative of His church alone. In England they let the wicked into the Jerusalem Chamber – the inner precincts where the Scriptures were given forth in a new edition – and it has been said ever after of the confusion sown there, “An enemy hath done this.”

    We make much of the Regulative Principle of Worship here. Is there to be no corollary in a Regulative Principle of Bible Reproduction? The ancient Jews were very careful in this area. We – we have given away the store. Why no RPBR? What Scripture says is not as important here as in the area of worship?

    I have sought over the last couple of years here to demonstrate that holding to – and defending – the texts and Bibles of the Reformation, and in particular its Authorized Version, is not contrary to reason, though not based upon reason. I have sought to show that it is based upon faith in God’s promises to preserve His words. And this in many arguments and discussions – and these with godly men and women who differ – and I have grown through these talks. Perhaps the greatest benefit of these discussions at PB to me has been the civilizing of me! Initially I was rough-hewn, and dealt roughly with opponents – a little bit anyway, occasionally. But I have learned here, among Reformed brethren and sisters, a better way. A great part of what I learned was through the objections of sincere believers at my de-legitimizing of their Bibles because of their variant readings. I came to see that indeed their Bibles are legitimate, just some readings are in dispute. That was a watershed insight for me, and for my approach in these discussions. I suppose – as my wife has told me upon occasion – I have a pretty thick head, but eventually light shone through and into my heart.

    So please understand, friends, as I present my case with renewed vigor here, that I am simply lifting up a standard of sanity, clarity, and faith in days that are going to get very dark. I do not mean to de-legitimize anyone’s Bibles – I am firm in that – and one may have confidence that the Scripture they use is God’s word – albeit with some disputed readings / variants.

    Now here is the rub – our adversaries (enemies of the Faith, be they Muslim, atheists, whatever) are acquiring basic text-critical skills that focus on the matter of textual discrepancies due to the variants among the manuscripts / text-forms, and will use these to attack the reliability of the Bible according to the strategies folks like Bart Ehrman is teaching them. He has more strategies than the variants, and I am studying them, but the variants are a serious matter. I haven’t heard the debate between Ehrman and James White over this yet, but I heard that James didn’t do that well – I’ll have to decide for myself when I hear it. (Ironically, the seminarian’s Greek expert / hero, Bruce Metzger, was Ehrman’s mentor and guide in this warfare.) Attacks on the Bible will show a new level of sophistication and ability to penetrate the usual defenses. A lot of souls will be watching how we deal with it.

    I’m not ready to write anything against Ehrman yet; I have much to study (among other studies!); but this is my direction, and I would suggest others focus on this area as well, for we’ll be facing it a lot in days to come.

    On another topic, I’m commencing a literary journal (which will take my time also) – as a weapon in the broader warfare. I reveal another side of myself there, which I’ve rarely shown here. I’m a serious poet / writer that the Lord lead in some strange paths in my younger years, and into dark depths of spirit – even as a believer – of which I write. I am not a “religious” type person – I do not like religiosity! – and my persona in this journal (which also features a book I am writing) is not like my persona here. I don’t mean I’m two-faced, only reserved. I will announce this journal shortly in one of the literature sections here.

    Sorry to go on so long, Rich, in answering you, but I guess this has been on my chest for a while! Thanks for putting up with me!
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    Again, I think you overstate the case a bit too much because the same argument could be made about the formation of some Creeds. They might also point out Erasmus and others who turned out to be Providentially important in the collation of manuscripts. What is the RPW for the formation of a historic Creed and, if we find that some nefarious characters and motivations were involved do we throw out the Creed?

    I'm not disagreeing we need to be careful but also be careful about the standard you use to insist on the perceived perfection of the Providential process because the measure you measure by will be the measure by which your process is measured.

    Comparing a textual critic to an abortionist belies the fact that there are unbelieving medical doctors that actually don't harm patients. The light of nature in men produces men of relative integrity even if their hearts are far from God. Do you mean to assert that every unbelieving Textual Critic knowingly and wantonly is destroying the Word of God and has no integrity?
  13. dr_parsley

    dr_parsley Puritan Board Freshman

    This is an interesting exchange and I appreciate Steve's passion. I don't follow these things closely (some have a vocation to do otherwise, but God calls me to spend my energies in action rather than in disputation) and I don't know who Ehrman is, but the following stood out for me:

    Someone using the NIV could say exactly the same thing, and say it in faith and glory to God, to refute the idea that His preservation stopped at the KJV. An NIV-onlyist (!) could say that surely God has preserved his written word even using the crooked stick of modern literary criticism. I do believe that God has a special importance and purpose for His written word and He would not allow (and has not allowed) it to be lost in a flood of godless translation. To dissuade me from this trust would take such particular and forceful proofs as to be of an order of magnitude greater than those available. I see various other factors as responsible for the declines in Christianity and (if I may humbly suggest) our energies are better spent elsewhere so long as we have the assurance that the power of God is manifest in our life, through the evidences of dying with Christ and being raised to life with Him.
  14. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    That ought to be, "Comparing an unbelieving textual critic to an abortionist"!

    You said, "The light of nature in men produces men of relative integrity even if their hearts are far from God." Yes, I surely agree. And also, "Do you mean to assert that every unbelieving Textual Critic knowingly and wantonly is destroying the Word of God and has no integrity?" No, not knowingly and wantonly, but they are in a realm alien to them. What has a follower of the devil to do with God's words?

    God's written Word is not just any book to be handled as if it were a book of the world. It is the book of Heaven, and what have mere earth-dwellers to do with it?

    Can you imagine the ancient Jewish priesthood bringing in — or in anywise allowing — wise men from Egypt or Babylon to superintend, copy, and preserve the scrolls of the Tenach?
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    Do you grant Erasmus the status of a believer in the sense that you demand for all textual critics today? Was the realm that he was engaging in alien to him?

    I'm not disagreeing that the Bible is not just any book but I want to make sure you are measuring the Providences of the past with those of the present.
  16. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Yes, Rich, I would grant he was a born-again believer. In post #11 above, D’Aubigné's quote of Erasmus I think shows that. And here is something also in Erasmus's own words. The following are quotes from his "Treatise on Preparation for Death":

    "Would you please Peter and Paul? Then emulate the faith of the one and the charity of the other. Thereby you will do better than if you make ten pilgrimages to Rome ... You honor a statue of Christ in wood or stone and adorned with colors. You would do better to honor the image of his mind which through the Holy Spirit is expressed in the gospels. Are you excited over the seamless robe and the napkin of Christ and yet doze over the oracles of his law? Far better that you should believe than that you should treasure at home a piece of the wood of the cross. Otherwise you are no better than Judas, who with his lips touched the divine mouth. The physical presence of Christ is useless for salvation ... In a word, let all your possessions, all your concern, all your care be directed toward the imitation of Christ, who was not born for himself, lived not to himself, died not to himself, but for our sakes ...

    "We are assured of victory over death, victory over the flesh, victory over the world and Satan. Christ promises us remission of sins, fruits in this life a hundredfold, and thereafter life eternal. And for what reason? For the sake of our merit? No indeed, but through the grace of faith which is in Christ Jesus. We are the more secure because he is first our doctor. He first overcame the lapse of Adam, nailed our sins to the cross, sealed our redemption with his blood, which has been confirmed by the testimonies of the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and virgins and by the universal Church of the saints. He added the seal of the Spirit lest we should waiver in our confidence ... What could we little worms do of ourselves? Christ is our justification. Christ is our victory. Christ is our hope and security. "Unto us a child is born." Unto US, born for us, given for us. He it is who teaches us, cures our diseases, casts out demons, for us suffers hunger and thirst, is afflicted, endures the agonies of death, sweats blood, for us is conquered, wounded, dead and resurrected, and sits at the right hand of God the Father ...

    "As we approach death the sacraments are not to be despised, but of greater importance is faith and charity without which all else is vain. I believe there are many not absolved by the priest, not having taken the Eucharist, not having been anointed, not having received Christian burial who rest in peace, while many who have had all the rites of the Church and have been buried next to the altar have gone to hell. There is no point in putting on a cowl. Better to resolve to live a better life if you get well. I know a noble woman who gave a large sum to a priest to have masses said for her soul at Rome. Her money might better have been spent to obligate the priest never to go to Rome. ...

    "Christ said, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour.’ Take refuge then in his cave in the rocks. Flee to his wounds and you will be safe. The way to enter paradise is the way of the penitent thief. Say simply, `Thy will be done. The world to me is crucified and I to the world.'" (Erasmus, "Treatise on Preparation for Death," quoted by Roland H. Bainton, Erasmus of Christendom (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969), pp. 68, 69, 70, 269, 270.)​

    At one point in his life Luther was both a Roman Catholic and a Protestant — who sought to reform Rome from within, as other Reformers initially sought to do. Erasmus did not formally leave Rome, but spiritually he did, as many of his writings show. He was trying to Reform it from within. He was a believer in Christ, in spirit and in truth.
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    At one point, Luther was also thought to be a humanist just like Erasmus. Erasmus clearly understood what Luther was getting at with Faith Alone and Grace Alone and repudiated both in debate.

    I don't share your optimism.
  18. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Gotta devote myself to sermon prep — I'll get back to you, Rich, and to you also, Paul, when I've finished. I enjoy the discussion. Thanks!
  19. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    P.S. Rich, you say that Erasmus repudiated Faith Alone and Grace Alone; would you please supply citations? I have given quotes in posts #11 and #16 to show he held to both of these. Yes, he was off as regards important theological doctrines, as the freedom / bondage of the will, but I have shown him saying we are saved by grace through faith, apart from our merit. Can you please show me otherwise? Thanks.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    A decent summary here: Luther and Erasmus: The Controversy Concerning the Bondage of the Will

    Here is a paper that does a respectable job:

    He was a synergist with respect to grace. That is not grace alone or faith alone as we understand it. To note that Erasmus spoke of grace through faith makes him no different than any other Roman Catholic in that regard and I could reproduce the above statements in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church. A man who goes out of his way to repudiate Divine Election gives me no confidence that he was "born again". God only knows the heart.

    With respect to wanting to be a reformer, I acknowledged that. Like many religious orders before him that wanted to reform the Church, he was interested in the degenerating morality of the Church. In debate, Luther stabbed much deeper at the heart of the issue. To dismiss the fact of the Freedom of the Will by Erasmus being a polemic against the Bondage of the Will is to dismiss the very heart of the Reformation. It's like saying we can have the Gospel without recognizing that God, alone, is the author and finisher of our salvation.

    My point is neither to destroy or support his scholarship on the basis of whether I think he was regenerated. I believe God can use the instrumentality of unregenerated men and it would be an odd standard indeed for us to apply the standard "I know he was born again" to determine where Divine Providence has or has not superintended the scholarship of men. On such a standard, we might despair to think of all the Rabbis who handled the Word around the time of Christ who rejected their Messiah.

    The doctrine of Providence does not require regenerate instrumentality to be used of God.
  21. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That was an excellent article, Rich: “Luther and Erasmus: The Controversy Concerning the Bondage of the Will”!

    Some observations. First, it came from the Protestant Reformed Church (PRC), which is one of the few modern Reformed churches to officially use the King James Bible as its Bible.

    Second, the author, Garrett J. Eriks, would not accept your view that God would use unregenerate men to work such good as to compile and publish the Bible for the churches: “[Unregenerate] man is wholly evil, thinking nothing but evil thoughts... They will and do nothing but evil.” Not great candidates for Bible translating committees or New Testament textual critics! No "common grace" in such men!

    I appreciate your bringing this article to my attention, for I hold to it in its entirety (and highly esteem the theologians and exegetes of the PRC, and while agreeing with them in the main, do not agree with everything they hold).

    Third, are you saying that everyone (since you appear to be saying it of Erasmus) who holds to a Semi-Pelagian, Arminian doctrine is neither a true Christian nor saved?

    Myself, a child of God in Christ over 41 years now, for perhaps the first two decades of my walk was a Semi-Pelagian and Arminian, having been taught extensively by Charles Finney (who was a rank Pelagian without the semi!) and John Wesley. I believed in Wesley’s view of Christian Perfection, and doggedly sought the “second blessing” in fastings and prayer which would supposedly result in “entire sanctification’. I bought and studied most of Finney’s works and devoured them, especially his Systematic Theology. I heard no Reformed doctrine in those years.

    Was I unsaved because I held to these aberrant and false doctrines? I know I was saved because I met the Savior, and walked with Him, albeit in gross error. These pernicious doctrines – which Erasmus also held – resulted in the failure of my spiritual life.

    I was not a tame little man in those days, but a wretched desperado rescued from the drug culture of the 60s and the occult paths so prevalent among us then, and the spiritual provision that only the Doctrines of Grace afford to men (that is, Reformed doctrine) I did not have. I backslid as a result of this “thinnest of soups” which modern evangelicalism offered. And I was a seeker (after my conversion), visiting churches, talking with pastors, reading. I was frightened of the Puritans and Reformed as the misconception of them I had was that they were legalists with more rules and great strictness and solemnity, and I couldn’t even obey the simple Gospel (or what distortions of it I knew). Of course this was disinformation spread by the devil to keep souls from the living waters flowing through the Puritan and Reformed camp. (I talk about these things, and the resultant life I led, in the book I am writing.)

    Was I unsaved? I was a wreck, and wretched, but I was born again of God’s Spirit, despite these crippling errors and God-dishonoring doctrine, (and backslidden life)! So let me generalize: are the vast majority of born-again evangelical Christians – not the mainline apostates and name-only “Christians” – but those in Wesleyan, Nazarene, general Baptist, Methodist, non-denoms of various stripes, Charismatic / Pentecostal..... in short, all those churches who think that the will of man plays a part in our being saved, are these all lost and deceived children of Satan? Or are they just in serious but not damnable error?

    I personally know many in such churches – and I know them well – and I know they are saved (inasmuch as we can know such things).

    Now I know that apostasy is spreading and widening its blight across the Christian world, and the absence of sound Reformed doctrine is a factor in the false professions of many – in their never having really heard the Gospel – but I do not think you can be saying that only the Reformed are saved because only they have a true God-honoring soteriology, and a proper view of His sovereignty in all things.

    Because of my background – the years the locusts had eaten – I am now a passionate preacher of Reformed theology, for it was to me a matter of life over death, of receiving the abundant provisions of God in the midst of a wasteland of tepid doctrine which bounced around the mind but could not bring the presence of God into the life and heart. But I will not deny that there are many men and women who do not know this ample provision who yet know and love Christ, albeit far from perfectly. It was for this reason I sought to plant a Reformed church in my city here in this country, as there was none, and only one other in the entire nation.

    All this to say, you cannot deny Erasmus a place in God’s kingdom as a born-again believer because he erred, even greatly as both Luther and Eriks point out. You would have to disinherit many other Christians, simply because they are non-Reformed, if you would be consistent. I am not prepared to do so, because of what I know of many such folks.

    I will get to the other essay (21 pages!) shortly.



    As maybe you’ve picked up by now, Ehrman is an apostate Christian who once professed faith but now denies Christ, and, as a learned and accomplished text critic, has turned against the Bible and has some very powerful strategies by which to attack it. One of his points of focus is the variants between the different versions.

    It does come down to specifics. Which is the true reading, the long ending of Mark 16 (which includes verses 9-20), or the short, which omits it? How about the woman taken in adultery in the contested passage of John 7:53-8:11? How about 1 Timothy 3:16, where “God was manifest in the flesh” is omitted in some mss and versions? Now the NIV omits all of these as inauthentic (or brackets them with a margin note to the same effect). In one stream of textual transmission, either the Byzantine / TR or the Alexandrian / CT, the true reading is lost.

    Yes, in the main they read alike, and God's word is not lost; but we are talking of specifics, and a fairly large number of them. Ehrman also talks of these.

    You said,

    I do believe that God has a special importance and purpose for His written word and He would not allow (and has not allowed) it to be lost in a flood of godless translation.​

    And I would agree with you. The discussion pertains to where He has retained the correct readings.

    Last edited: Aug 24, 2009
  22. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Another P.S.

    After reading Charles L. Cortright’s essay, I don’t have much more to add, save that Cortright, as a Lutheran, holds Luther to have written in his The Bondage of the Will, even if obliquely, against errors in Calvin (pages 19, 20).

    Consider what Cortright ends with:

    And after reading [Erasmus’] Diatribe, one is impressed with a personal piety that cannot accept Luther's judgment of the man as a ‘mocking Lucian.’ ” [emphasis mine –SMR] (p. 20)​

    But that’s what I was saying also!
  23. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    You're missing my point. I did not state that a person who holds to a Semi-Pelagian view of the Scriptures is necessarily unregenerate and your response obfuscates the main point. I'm actually quite ambivalent about whether Erasmus was regenerate (Deut 29:29).

    You quoted statements by Erasmus to argue that you believe he was regenerate. OK. I'm simply pointing out that you can find the same statements about the necessity of God's grace and of faith in salvation in current Roman Catholic dogma. You can find it in the liturgical forms that the Roman Catholic Church uses as well. There is nothing distinctively "regenerate" about the use of that language unless you want to insist that every single Christian who has externally confessed the necessity of grace and faith in salvation and demonstrated personal piety was regenerate.

    I'll be honest with you - that your view of textual criticism requires you to hold that Erasmus was regenerate causes more skepticism than it relieves. You simply cannot know that Erasmus was regenerate any more than you can know that about any scholar who has handled the text of the Scriptures. The fact that Erasmus wrote a polemic against electing grace certainly does not bolster confidence to the view that Erasmus was regenerate when he was an enemy of the true Gospel in his lifetime. It's not that he could not possibly be regenerate and do such a thing but it certainly is not a reason for anyone to assume he was and stake the validity of the Received Text on Erasmus' regenerate status.

    That's the point.

    God's Providence does not require regenerate agency. Whatever other points you want to make about textual criticism in the hands of unbelievers and the perils thereof may be quite valid in terms of concern. That said, there is a profound problem with your argument when you insist that our confidence in textual criticism of the past requires that we trust that every single person that participated in it be regenerate.
  24. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Me, obfuscating? God forbid I should cloud what I am seeking to throw light on!

    But let’s review the discussion so far.

    I have said that it matters not if the vast majority of evangelical scholars, and textual critics, disavow the King James and TR positions, because 1) the seminaries and Christian colleges are increasingly – and widely! – abandoning the doctrines of the divine inspiration and infallibility of the Bible; 2) the textual critics of the 20th century (and this century appears no different at all) hold profound skepticism and doubt with regard to ever finding out what the original autographs of Scripture were – a lost cause (and this in their own words); and, 3) I therefore care not what this bankrupt discipline, and the doctrinally declining schools, hold forth concerning the King James and TR, for they have been corrupted by methodologies alien to the church of God and its Bible.

    You said it’s not that simple, and my juxtaposing the academic and the text critical quotes do not necessarily lead to the conclusions I draw. The development of heterodoxy may not be as simple as I am asserting.

    I said, Ok, you’re right, it is more complex than that. I then took a look at Rome’s use of “rationalistic” text critical methods in an attempt to derail the Reformation’s doctrine of Scripture Alone (and those solas that followed with it) by attacking the TR mss tradition they built upon. Then I followed this initially Roman but later German and then English use of unbelieving rationalistic critical method, culminating in Warfield’s championing of it, and the resultant text critical situation, particularly in the Reformed camp.

    You then talked about the remaining image of God in fallen man and, because of this, that such men can “do Him glory in spite of themselves”. Or, in other words of yours, “God could even thwart their flawed methodology and, by the use of a crooked stick, draw a straight line”.

    I said, well, yes, but not in the area of textual criticism or Bible translating (and the related discerning of authentic texts) as these need the Spirit of God for such spiritual labors. And I brought in Erasmus’ case to preemptively strike at the “tired cavils” regularly brought up against him – as I was talking of the inappropriateness of the ungodly seeking to improve the NT text – and he is often labeled ungodly by opponents of the TR. So I quoted him to indicate an “evangelical” – though not a Reformed – understanding of grace.

    Rome would say (by the Council of Trent),

    “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema. Sixth Session (Canon 12)”

    “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema. (Canon 14)”​

    Listen, I brought Erasmus in in the first place to head off at the pass objectors using him to say the ungodly did put their hands to the process of the forming of the Received Text. And the two sections of his quotes show that he would indeed run afoul the anathemas of Rome for his beliefs regarding grace apart from any merit or works on his part. Did he get the grace alone and faith alone completely right? No, he did not, for he held to the ability of man to will as part of cleaving to Christ, as do so many in our own day, who are yet Christians.

    What am I obfuscating? If I am proving an important point in my case, I clarify, not cloud.

    You said, “The doctrine of Providence does not require regenerate instrumentality to be used of God.” And with this I agree, generally. But not when it comes to the discerning, sorting, and translating of His word. That requires spiritual discernment. I brought up Erasmus for the same reason I brought up the quotes regarding the Christian education failings and the text critics’ doubts: I want to shed light on this area of things that profoundly pertain to our Faith.

    Rich, do you not think we can tell concerning a man’s faith by the things that he writes – and especially when his heart is in it? Why then do we read the Puritans if this is not so?

    R.C. Sproul once put forth the concept, “the judgment of charity” – not putting the worst possible spin on a man’s words or actions, without good reason.

    Did John Wesley write “a polemic against electing grace”? And his brother Charles believe the same? Does Norman Geisler write such polemics? Do you doubt their profession? (Though you may rightly abhor their false doctrine!)

    You say to me, “...that your view of textual criticism requires you to hold that Erasmus was regenerate causes more skepticism than it relieves”. What my view requires is that the principle of the care and reproducing of the sacred writings be observed – and understood. You didn’t interact with my earlier saying,

    “Can you imagine the ancient Jewish priesthood bringing in — or in anywise allowing — wise men from Egypt or Babylon to superintend, copy, and preserve the scrolls of the Tenach?”​

    The care of the “scrolls of the New covenant” are likewise given into the hands of the priesthood of believers – not their enemies, and those who inject the demonic poison of evil unbelief into their doings. Is this not simply self-evident? It is not to some because we have become used to – inured! – to the scandalous situation of our sacred writings being given over to the secular academy with its wicked anti-God and anti-Christ presuppositions.

    Do I “stake the validity of the Received Text on Erasmus’ regenerate status”? I do not believe this is what I do – it is putting the cart before the horse. I stake the validity of the received Text on the principle of the care of the NT being given into the hands of the priesthood of believers – that’s the “horse” – and I discern Erasmus was such a one, perhaps not an “outstanding spiritual giant”, but a man of God nonetheless – and that’s the cart. But it is all of a cloth. A tapestry of the providence of God, woven skillfully by His hand.

    “God's Providence does not require regenerate agency.” As I said earlier, I agree with this. We see Cæsar Augustus calling for a tax throughout the empire which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, so that His prophecy should be fulfilled. But as regards the main players (okay? I will grant that qualification) in the care of the NT text, this is not given to the wicked. It is the church’s Bible, not the world’s – which is entirely in the thrall of the wicked one.

    Lest we weary those looking on – and ourselves! – I will let you have the last word. I think I have stated my case pretty clearly, and will let the reader decide what is sound and what not.

    I repeat one last thing: That we in the Reformed camp do not have a Regulative Principle concerning the Care and Reproduction of our Scripture may well turn out to be our Achilles' Heel. The Standard is weakened, with no end in sight. Even the defense of it has become schismatic.

    I do thank you for a vigorous and yet cordial discussion of these matters, Rich. May others be edified by how we have done it, as well as what we have said.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  25. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You obfuscated by bringing in polemics that had nothing to do with the point I was making concerning Erasmus. I never stated that Erasmus was necessarily unregenerate. I never stated that every semi-Pelagian or Arminian is unregenerate.

    So, how did you interact with my point about the certainty that Erasmus was a Godly man?

    You repeatedly brought a false charge against me that I don't believe a semi-Pelagian can be regenerate. You then told your life story about how you once were Arminian.

    Great story but it obfuscated the matter. Your life story had nothing to do with anything I wrote because I never condemned all Semi-Pelagians. That I have to keep stating this is bewildering. Your life story (or Norm Geisler's) also has nothing to do with Erasmus.

    You continue to try to prop Erasmus up as if we can read statements of his and know he was regenerate. Why not quote the things he wrote against Divine Election and simply note that none of what he wrote against the Gospel really amounts to anything? Your argument must insist that he had to be a spiritual man. If you cannot maintain this point then somehow I think you believe that your whole textual critical position would fall apart.

    It's just very odd to me that you have to establish your textual critical method on the insistence that Erasmus (or any other person engaged in it) was regenerate.

    You can continue to present as much material as you believe establishes the point (that Erasmus wouldn't have gone with Trent is something you simply cannot know). You can bring Norm Geisler in if you like but I'm not interested in Norm Geisler. I've never once in this thread insisted that a man is or is not regenerate. It is your position that asserts regeneration. I have consistently left the hidden things with the Lord. My corpus on this board is very consistent. I've never been a "pin the tail on the Elect" guy. I don't name names about who is/isn't regenerate.

    I believe your position is fundamentally weakened because you insist:

    This is your innovation. It is not in our Confession of Faith. God's most important work that He ever accomplished (the crucifixion of the Son) was never left to chance but was accomplished at the hands of wicked men.

    As an aside, I very much question the "spiritual discernment" of Erasmus who, when most of Europe was awakening again to the light of the Gospel, wrote against principles that were at the core of the Reformation. I do not have the mind of God but I am certainly not hanging my hat on the certainty that Erasmus had much spiritual discernment. He wouldn't have been allowed into any Reformed pulpits at the time.

    While claiming to bolster a view of God's Providential care, your view weakens the Doctrine of Providence by asserting that, when it comes to the Word of God, we must assume that only those who are regenerate could have cared for and translated it in the whole of Church History. If we doubt that for a minute then (apparently) our whole confidence in the Word of God is supposed to perish with this doubt.

    Thank you as well for the interaction. I'm not as concerned about getting the last word as clarifying lest the reader be confused that this is all about me saying that every semi-Pelagian is unregenerate.
  26. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    It seems that this entire discussion concerns whether or not there is a neutral/rational text criticism method that anyone can use concerning the Bible regardless of them believing that there is a God, the Bible is His word etc. If there is, then Semper Fidelis is correct; while if there is not, then Jerusalem Blade is correct.
  27. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    You say of me, "You repeatedly brought a false charge against me that I don't believe a semi-Pelagian can be regenerate."

    I'm sorry if it came across that way! It was no charge, but a question (asked twice): "...are you saying that everyone (since you appear to be saying it of Erasmus) who holds to a Semi-Pelagian, Arminian doctrine is neither a true Christian nor saved?" (post #21)

    It was asked because of your strong assertion of doubt in Erasmus' salvation: "A man who goes out of his way to repudiate Divine Election gives me no confidence that he was "born again". (post #20)

    I really wanted to know of your view here, and I'm glad you answered it as you did. Rich, it was no charge, but a sincere question. You will admit perhaps, that such a strong vote of "no confidence" in a man's salvation indicates how you strongly doubt, though you will not pronounce a judgment. And to be consistent it would have to apply more generally as well. But you have answered my question, and made it clear. Please, a sincere question is not a charge!

    I don’t know with certainty Erasmus was regenerate – in the way I know it of myself and, in a slightly lesser way, of other people in my life. But I know it in the way of assessing people whose works we read and lives we read about. Can I err? Yes. Do I have the discernment God’s Spirit gives? Yes. Of course I am not infallible. Nor is Erasmus’ spiritual condition the mainstay upon which my view of God’s providential preservation of Scripture is based – as I have said: “I stake the validity of the received Text on the principle of the care of the NT being given into the hands of the priesthood of believers”. This is the “horse” that pulls the cart, and Erasmus just happens to be in the cart. The principle is the driving force in my view, and Erasmus is a small part of what is pulled into the providence.

    But concerning this, Rich, you say,

    Is that really an innovation? Of mine? Why does not the Confession address this matter directly? Can if be it would never had entered the minds of those at the Westminster Assembly to allow the wicked the care and reproduction of the Word of God? Or to conceive of the future church giving it over to them? Yet the Confession does say, “Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word” (1:6). Would they have entertained such folly as to allow those who were bereft of the illumination of the Spirit of God to care for it? One of the Scripture references of that passage is 1 Cor 2:12, 14-15:

    Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.​

    The Scripture is a spiritual thing. Its being written, its preservation, its meaning, its translation – all pertains to the Spirit of God.

    And I believe the General Equity involved in the laws given the priests / Levites to take charge of the written Law, to preserve it and whatever was needed with regard to it (Deut 31:24-26), are applicable to us in New Covenant times as the duties of the priesthood of believers to likewise take charge of the Law of God.

    Romans 3:2 says that unto the Jews “were committed the oracles of God” – not to the ungodly Gentiles but the Jews. What are the implications for the New Testament church?

    An innovation? The innovation – now so widespread as to be considered the norm – is to let the ungodly take “care” of the Word of God. That to uphold the Biblical view of the godly alone to care for the Scripture is called an innovation shows just how far the church has fallen. Innovation indeed!

    My view “weakens the Doctrine of Providence” by these claims? You will note, I qualified that “the main players” (in bold emphasis, no less, post #24) in the care of the Scripture are not the wicked, but the godly. Yes, the unregenerate may have a hand here and there, such as an unconverted Jew helping to store the scrolls after the Fall of Jerusalem, or keeping them safe in libraries. I can see a Greek scholar teaching the Reformation editors when they were students, and other minor roles.

    It is true that God’s most important work – the crucifying of His Son for the salvation of many – was accomplished through the instrumentality of wicked men. But this evil deed working the overriding good of God cannot be (or should not be!) compared to the spiritual work of compiling, editing, and translating the Scripture. This is my view, and I hold that it is the Bible’s view. It was so in the OT and is so in the New.

    [Added later, as I prefer not to post further: It is not that the preservation of the Scriptures are more important than the death of Christ, and that only the “Pure” may have anything to do with them, but that the crucifixion was on the world stage of redemptive history, while the giving and the preserving of the Scripture was in the spiritual realm of God’s verbal revelation – i.e., the difference between God’s redemptive acts and the inspired record of them. As the inspired record uniquely preserves for us God’s words and acts, it fully shares in their importance. It is the testimony of the Spirit of Christ to the work of God. In this realm – the realm of the Spirit – the wicked have no role save perhaps that of “supporting actor” here and there....... A church without a sure Bible is a dying church!]

    The innovation, truth be told, is that the mind which is at “enmity against God... [and] is not subject to the law of God... [and which] cannot please God” (Rom 8:7, 8) is allowed to tamper with God’s Word, in violation of the demand of all Scripture for keeping the holy undefiled by the unholy.

    Sorry, but we differ on this, Rich! And strongly.

    And you have stated clearly concerning your view of those who oppose the Reformed (and true) doctrine of election: they may be saved. Again, I'm sorry if my honest question (an important question!) sounded as a charge. It was not.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  28. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    That is not my point at all Hermonta and I have never stated that. I have even admitted some reservations, in this thread, about Enlightenment philosophy and its affect on every theological discipline.

    My larger issue has been the nature of Providence and the light of nature in men. Calvin, in his Institutes, is highly critical of human philosophy at many points but likewise notes the light that is shining through some of the folly as men reflect the Divine image in spite of themselves as it were. He openly rebukes any notion that we simply look at the writings of non-Christians and simply give them all the malediction that they are the writings of "madmen".

    In Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, one of the arguments that is made for Presbyterian government is the light of nature and the way that societies have proven to best govern themselves.

    In brief, I did not fault the entirety of Steve's argument but I have taken issue with an overstatement of the case that the agency of unregenerate men is completely worthless in matters that could "accidentally" benefit the Church under the Hand of a God that upholds all things.

    Erasmus was thus brought forward as an example because I don't have much confidence in his spiritual discernment given what he fought against in the historical time that he lived but I can still very much appreciate his scholarship and gifts such that, even his heart was hostile to the Gospel, God used His talents to His own glory. I don't need to make Erasmus more than he was historically (or what I can possibly know about a man) to conclude that, no matter where his heart was, God superintends all to His purposes.
  29. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I appreciate your response. As you stated earlier, I'm content to allow our posts and arguments speak for themselves. By your own admission, you are speaking beyond what the Church confesses re: Providence. You are averring, by weak argumentation, that the Preservation of the Scriptures is somehow so much more important than the death of the Son of God that God cannot have possibly used any but the purest of Actors in Church History. I'm sorry, but the very history of Redemption demonstrates this is not the case. Many who find their way into Hebrews 11 are not there because of their outstanding character during their lives but because of the outstanding God that we serve.
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