Taking a break from the CBGM for a moment I want to turn to Mark Ward’s latest interview with Dwayne Green. Having watched each episode in the three part series I have come to the conclusion that we are on the same road but so far apart I’m afraid he cannot see us. As a result he cannot understand us. So while my dad an I have take hours upon hours of original language work and studied under the likes of Vern Poythress, it is quite apparent that Ward has little experience in pre-critical exegetical argumentation exemplified in those like Francis Turretin and Richard Muller. This became evident in the last interview especially and for the following reasons:
1.) It seems obvious to me that someone with a Ph.D. like Dr. Ward should have at least a little understanding of philosophy. I mean beside meaning Piled Higher and Deeper, Ph.D. also means Doctor of Philosophy. It stands to reason then that he would have some sense of philosophy and yet he seems to have little understanding of material vs. substantial change. If the Bible is [substantial] the words of God, then to change the words of God is to changes the substance of the thing. If the Bible is merely a set of symbols through which God speaks then to change the words of the Bible is merely to change symbols, or the material, the shape and amount of the ink. Because Ward seems blissfully unaware of this distinction he cannot comprehend how the CT and the TR can be substantially different texts, and the same goes for substantially differing versions. As such, Ward seems wholly unaware that the Law of Non-Contradiction serves as a potent defeater to his case given the substantial difference between the CT and TR as well as modern versions and the KJV.
2.) Continuing with the theme of philosophy and particularly philosophical theology, the notion of “sufficient reliability” is wholly bankrupt. Who argues that by my lights Jesus is God in a sufficiently reliable way therefore Jesus is God or that my faith is sufficiently reliable by my lights therefore my faith is faith? No, Christians assert that Jesus is the Son of God with certainty and conviction. Yet we hear all the time that this or that version is sufficiently reliable by my lights therefore it is the Bible, it is “Thus saith the Lord,” it is “Hear the word of God.” Ward should just say his judgment on this point is utterly subjective and move on.
3.) Exegetically, there is zero ground for the position Ward et al hold. I have read all the material presented to me by CT advocates which is purported to be the theological and exegetical grounding for modern text-critical methodology and the assertion that multiple versions only is the only charitable Christian position. To this point none of them, exactly zero of them employ exegesis to make their case. To this point none of them have an ecclesiastical history to their position reaching any further back than B.B. Warfield or the 20th century. To this point none of them have presented a cogent theological argument let alone a robust theologian argument for their position. In sum, their argument is not distinctively Christian. It is at this point merely the argument of agnostic Bart Ehrman coupled with an unfounded consensus view on inerrancy, and they are losing ground on the consensus as well if this book is any indication of the trajectory of inerrancy in the American Christian Church and the Western Christian Church at large.
4.) Ward chuckles when explaining that the new versions don’t remove the deity of Christ. Christians don’t believe the new versions omit the deity of Christ, he quips. Yet 51% of professing Christians in a recent Legonier State of Theology survey agree or strongly agree that Jesus is not God. I don’t need to draw a direct line between certain omissions in the new translations to this alarming phenomenon in the American Church. All that needs to be said is that the critical text advocates and multiple version only crowd have held the reigns for over a 150 years first in the academy and then in pulpit. In short, if the Bible is the only way to know that Jesus is God and if the CT/MVO position is the prevailing and godly position then it is the sacred standard which has presided over such a theological fiasco as denying the deity of Christ as well as things like legal abortions and the equality of homosexual marriage which even the pagan Greeks wouldn’t do. Congratulations on your success. And before you trot out the coincidence-vs-caustion argument remember that the Bible is the only way we can know Jesus is God and it was the CT/MVO Bible(s) steering the ship when we ran aground on this 51%.
5.) Socio-culturally Ward seems entirely unaware that his current argument for choosing this or that version is in near lock-step with rise and triumph of the modern self as explained by Carl Trueman in his book by the same name. Ward does not see that one can no more subjectively choose one’s Bible than they can subjectively choose what gender they are. The Church does not choose the Bible any more than a man can choose to be a woman. God’s creative word determines what is a man and what is a woman and God’s revelatory word determines what is or is not God’s word. The Bible informs the Church, has authority over the Church, teaches, and judges the Church. The Church does not choose the Bible, she recognizes and accepts the Bible. Ward’ argument on the other hand, and he seems entirely unaware that it is, is a form of expressive individualism pointed at the Bible.
The professing Christian is like an actor on a stage and they choose these or those Bibles and we are all supposed to watch and gladly affirm their choices. For to challenge their choices is to challenge who they are in their being. Put more simply, Ward and company have no problem with your choice of versions. They accept the way you feel about your versions and your choice. But if someone says, “Your choice is wrong. It is not anchored in the Scripture. You have no theological grounding for your choice” then Mark Ward and company will “fight” you insofar as they are able.
6.) On the point of receiving a version of the Bible and sanctification, it is unclear to me why this is an issue. If our belief in the Bible is like all other Christian beliefs, then why not believe that moving from one iteration or version to a better one is an act of sanctification in the heart of the believer. Now this assumes that you believe the Bible is substantially the word of God and that God cannot both say and not say the long ending in Mark at the same time and in the same way. I am a soteriological Calvinist, but for the sake of an example let’s assume that my position is wrong and that Molinism is the correct mode of divine decree in the salvation of men’s souls. When I read the word of God the Spirit of God teaches me and compels me to believe the truth and that truth is Molinism. So one day I finally switch from one version of soteriology [Calvinism] to a different version of soteriology [Molinism]. Even though both positions have much in common they are still substantively different like in the case of versions of the Bible. Seeing that Molinism is the better version though similar in many ways with Calvinism, I have experienced a sanctification of by beliefs and thereby am more set apart [i.e., sanctified] unto God.
What is more, to say that one person is more sanctified than another on this or that point is rude or unfounded is hardly a critique. Perhaps it hurts your feelings but the Bible is clear in Galatians 6 that there are those who a spiritual and Paul in other places warns that the pastor not be a novice both in knowledge and experience. Paul says in yet other places that some are babies in need of milk while yet other are ready for the meat of the word. People are in different places in their sanctification. That is obvious from Scripture. Why this is an issue for Ward continues to baffle.
7.) While I appreciate Ward’s tone and demeanor, his claim that the Confessional position or even the KJVO position is the divisive side of the version argument is plainly false on two accounts: (1) The Confessional position is the historical position and the KJV has been the standard sacred text of the believing community for over 400 years. Therefore it is the post-critical, Post-Enlightenment, Post-1900’s critical text position which has caused a schism in the literature, in the academy, and in the church. It is their position which has strayed and it shows especially in their utter and total lack of any meaningful exegesis, historical grounding, theological defense, or philosophical argumentation. Their position is simply too young and too lifeless to provide such robust fare.
(2) Seeing that it is the birth of Ward’s position 150 years ago that divided us over the Church’s standard sacred text, it is now the Confessional position which is trying to reunite the two halves. The Confessional position has always aimed to unite the English-speaking church around one Bible. This is why prior iterations of this argument were those like the Traditional Text position of Burgeon which focused on the text held by the English-speaking believing community over the centuries. Then there was the Ecclesiastical Text position of Letis which again pointed to the the text of the Church, the unified body of Christ. Now there is the Confessional Text position and a confession is a body of received beliefs held by a united community of believers. We argue here for a standard sacred text or a text around which all English-speaking Christians whether Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Episcopal can gather.
So while Ward and those like him can make claims that our position is the one that divides he simply has it completely backwards. The very assertion that “Multiple versions are the word of God so choose the one you like” is a statement in division. It is subjective and individualistic at its core. The aim is not community the aim is personal preference. The very history of Ward’s position is predicated on an split from the exegetical, theological, and philosophical position of the Spirit-led believing community. In sum, Ward’s position and those like him are by definition and by regular admission, divisive.
All of the above observations are largely lost on those in Ward’s camp because there are far more and far more popular voices advocating for his position. That position is the comfortable position and he and those like him are playing for the home team at home. Still, we here at StandardSacredText.com will continue to bring our message, that old exegetically and theologically grounded message, to you and those like Ward and perhaps one day Ward and those like him will leave that city called Destruction and that insufferable circus of Vanity Fair and we will welcome them back.