If you’ve spent more than five minutes on the internet over the last couple days you probably ran across this exchange between SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and Senator Marsha Blackburn,
Senator Blackburn: “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?”
Judge Jackson: “I can’t…not in this context. I’m not a biologist.”
In continuation from yesterday’s post, we once again return to the topic of Expressive Individualism. Judge Jackson, being a woman, cannot give a definition for the word “woman” because she has chosen a Rule, a Standard which allows her to be ambiguous about that which is ruled, because of the Expressive Individualism that pervades her worldview. She does not understand that the Rule is already set, God has set the Rule long ago and as a revelation of His person. Instead, she has chosen a different Rule and as such has chosen how the game of “What Counts as Woman” is played, and the Rule states that she can be ambiguous or non-committal on what a woman is.
Furthermore, she has chosen a Rule which makes her non-committal answer one of epistemic humility and deference. In other words, she is virtuous for saying the definition for “woman” is something a biologist would know about and seeing she is not a biologist then such a question is beyond the purview of her expertise. In other words, Judge Jackson is going to graciously stay in her lane. And for this modesty, Judge Jackson is regard as intelligent, virtuous, and humble by her acolytes for not claiming a standard definition of what a woman is.
The same goes for the current textual and version debates. Frist, the Multiple Version Only position is intelligent. I mean, look at all the Ph.D’s that support the MVO position. The MVO position is humble because such adherents would never think harming someone’s sincere feeling or preference that this/these version(s) is/are the best one(s) for the moment. And all of this is virtuous or an excellence heaped upon the Church for its ambiguity clothed in modesty.
But then there are those who call for a standard sacred text and believe the Bible in their hand is that text to the exclusion of all others. Now those people are Bible bigots. And who are they anyway to say that the KJV or the TR are the Bible when all the smart people [i.e., text-critics] disagree with those Bible bigots. I mean, stay in your lane TR/KJV folks and leave it to the experts. Take a page out of Judge Jackson’s playbook, but instead of leaving the answer to biologist, leave the answer to the text-critics. In the end, how dare you have a single authoritative standard for what counts as a woman? Even further, how dare you have a single authoritative standard for what counts as the Holy Bible?
Second, who chooses the readings of the NT in the text-critical method? Well the smart people do, the “biologists” of the text-critical world. And how many of the readings do they choose? All of them. They choose to start with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and then choose to add or omit additional readings thus creating the ECM/NA 28/UBS 5. The point is, scholars choose all the readings of the entire text. They choose every reading of the Rule and declare them the NT according to their interpretation. Then those readings get translated into versions and who chooses the Rule then? English-speakers do based on which ones make the most sense. In sum, scholars choose every reading of the Greek NT then English-speakers choose whichever version(s) of those chosen readings they like the best. At no point is there any appeal to the Spirit of God moving through the word of God in the people of God to receive those words by faith. No such admissions would mean that more than “biologists” can tell us all what counts as a “woman” and more than “text-critics” can tell us what counts as the Holy Bible. /Gasp
Since Warfield, the definition of God’s providence has included the textual definitions and choices provided by men like Wescott, Hort, and Lachmann. With “providential” so defined, God’s providential care has governed Wescott and Hort to define the Bible and its readings as they did. In like manner, God’s providential care has just as likely governed Judge Jackson to define or rather fail to define “woman” a she did. The English-speaking Church is ambiguous about what counts as the Bible and Judge Jackson is ambiguous about what counts as a woman and both parties are considered intelligent, epistemically humble, and virtuous for their respective stances.
Ask Judge Jackson, “Is that person over there a woman?” She may reply, “Well that person sounds like a woman, that person looks like a woman, that person has the apparent structures of a woman, but the fact is that she may not be.”
Ask your average text-critic, “Is that reading original?” The text-critic will most probably reply, “Well that reading currently appears to be the original reading, that reading has the apparent structures of an original reading, but the fact is that that reading may not be the original reading.”
Third, we don’t choose God. God first chooses us and then we are able to choose Him. When scholars choose every word of God in the original and English-speakers choose a version of those words which best comports with their feels or personal preferences, then we have Expressive Individualism at its finest. The Expressive Individualism of the current western ecclesiastical community is manifest in its ambiguity about what counts as “The Holy Bible” while Judge Jackson is ambiguous about what counts as a woman. Most conservatives can hardly contain their disdain about the latter, but if we had a choice between ambiguity about what counts as the Bible and ambiguity about what counts as a woman, it seems we should prefer the latter.
For if we had a standard sacred text of Scripture we could figure out what counts as a woman from the pages of Holy Scripture – a Holy Scripture which chooses us, which Rules over us and is not an object of our current cultural affections or preferences. But if we had a clear understanding of what counts as a woman but we lacked a clear understanding of what counts as “The Holy Bible”, the definition of a woman would be as mailable as whatever prevailing power structure would have it to be and soon after that, the so called “clear definition” would become irrevocably ambiguous. And that is where we are. Welcome to 2022.
In sum, our culture does not know what counts as a woman because the Church does not know what counts as Holy Scripture.
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