Ward’s Textual Confidence Collective is Turning Out to be a Dumpster Fire

So the second episode of Mark Ward’s Textual Confidence Collective [TCC] dropped yesterday. I watch to stay up on the current goings on. I watch to hear a new argument perhaps. I watch to see if someone among them could could offer our arguments a beautiful death. To co-op the words of Stelios,

“I have fought countless times yet I have never met an adversary who could offer my arguments what the Spartan’s call a beautiful death. I can only hope that with all the TCC warriors gathered in one place, there might be one down there that is up to the task.

Stelios of Sparta

But alas none of the reasons I came to watch were fulfilled.

This episode was entitled The History of Textual Absolutism. TCC defines “textual absolutism” as holding to one form of the Scriptural text as their only and final authority. This could be a Greek/Hebrew text, a manuscript, or a version. They then go on to note certain persons who held to one form of the Scriptural text as their only and final authority.

Starting with the legend of the LXX, then Justin Martyr, then onto the Roman Catholics with their Latin Vulgate, and then ending the last five minutes with five modern day absolutist groups as characterized by the thought and work of Ruckman, Riplinger, McClure, Cloud, and Hills respectively. Ruckman being the most extreme and Hills being the most moderate of these five modern-day absolutist groups or positions.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the episode was bent on critiquing the absolutist position by appeal to opposition contemporaries of Martyr and certain Roman Catholic apologists. So the episode would more aptly be called, The History of Critiquing Textual Absolutism.

This was their opportunity to show that they understand the position they so vehemently protest. They could have given the whole hour to showing their in-depth understanding of Martyr’s position and the Roman Catholic position as well as the robust theological Reformation position. But, no. Almost the whole episode was spent on their personal opinions why the legend of the LXX came to prominence, the virtues of Erasmus’ arguments contra absolutism, and a handful of quotes from the KJV translators, which I am going to get to in a minute.

There were many place where TCC set forth false equivalencies and sloppy argumentation which would have needed attention, but for this post I want to focus on only a few of the more ridiculous things.

1.) One of the huge problems of the TCC is that they set out to define their opponents but fail to properly do so, making the whole show a strawman. It would have been better for them to have an opponent on the TCC, or to have merely stated their arguments without pretending to understand their opponents and then labeling them.

Their hubris is palpable and it tastes a bit salty in that they think themselves able to critique Ruckman and Hills at the same time. I get that Tim doesn’t have advanced degrees but there is no excuse for Ward and Hixon who have Ph.D.’s or Peter who is a Ph.D. candidate. Their scope is too broad and they should know that. But they don’t, or they do and don’t care. And apparently they don’t know the substantive and meaningful differences between Ruckman and Hills so they stupidly lump them all under one title, textual absolutist.

2.) No sooner had they defined textual absolutism than they started to tear it down. Then after ~ 42 minutes of critiquing textual absolutism Ward cluelessly and confidently states, “We are trying to represent them fairly.” [42:18] I laughed out loud at this point. 2/3’s of the episode is over and all they’ve done is critique something they’ve barely defined let alone built up and then Ward, completely unaware of himself on this point, tells the audience that he is trying to represent the other side fairly. This shows you the caliber of scholarship the TCC employs.

3.) I thought it was hilarious around [52:00] when Ward says that he is an absolutist on the resurrection, salvation, and the virgin birth, but then he was not an absolutist on baptism. Then Hixon challenges him on it right then and there and says that infant baptism is no baptism at all. This is a parody of the version issue and they don’t even realize it.

Ward’s position on baptism is in step with his position on the Scriptures. Ward believes in many competing English forms of the word of God and so many competing forms of baptism makes sense to him. Hixon believes in only one form of baptism but in many forms of the word of God from which Hixon draws his beliefs regarding baptism. Hixon’s like, “God has given many forms of His own words to the Church but there is absolutely no way God could give many forms of baptism to the Church.” That part was golden. Then to have Ward and Hixon disagree in their degrees of absolutism was great because Ward would lump himself in with Hixon’s position [at one point Ward quickly affirmed that he was Credo-Baptist] but Hixon would not lump himself in with Ward, all the while the TCC lumps together Ruckman to Hills under the same term, textual absolutist. Good times…

4.) Tim: “If the Bible can be wrong in one point, it can be wrong in every other. It’s that same absolutist logic.” [11:54] Tim is saying here that a hallmark of textual absolutists is that they believe that if the Bible can be wrong at one point then it can be wrong in all other points. And the TCC all nod…

Again, we keep coming back to this point but we have to. The TCC is simply out of their depth on this topic. They were raised in a weak form of Bibliology and then desperately attached themselves to what is currently popular, but their Bibliology is still just as bloodless and effete as when they were in high-school.

Take this quote from Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology [1696]. Turretin’s Institutes are important because 1.) they were the Systematic Theology of the Academy at Geneva, the first official Protestant school of higher learning in the Third Wave of the Reformation and 2.) Turretin’s Institutes remained the standard Protestant Systematic Theology until the mid-1800’s at Princeton until Hodge’s Systematic Theology replaced Turretin’s.

I tell you this because for nearly 200 years, or approximately ten generations of Christian scholars used Turretin’s Institutes as their standard for Systematic Theology. The quote I’m about to share with you is loudly and clearly this supposed “absolutist logic” and the TCC is oblivious to this truth. Turretin writes,

“Unless unimpaired integrity characterize the Scriptures, they could not be regarded as the sole rule of faith and practice, and the door would be thrown wide open to atheists, libertines, enthusiasts, and other profane persons like them for destroying its authenticity (authentian) and overthrowing the foundations of salvation.” Turretin, Institutes vol. 1, 71.

NOTE: In sum, without “unimpaired integrity” the Bible will be left wide open to destruction by atheist, antinomians, charismatics, and other profane persons which will lead to the overthrow of the foundation of faith. So what does “unimpaired integrity” look like for Turretin?

“For since nothing false can be an object of faith, how could the Scriptures be held as authentic and reckoned divine if liable to contradictions and corruptions? Nor can it be said that these corruptions are only in smaller things which do not affect the foundation of faith.”

NOTE: Every time I read this portion I laugh. 350 years ago Turretin had to respond to the same objection offered now by our evangelical brethren which is, “Well, the corruptions in the New Testament don’t affect any major doctrine.” While Turretin says it cannot be said that these corruptions are only in the smaller things; things that do not affect the foundation of faith i.e., major doctrine.

In the same section again,

“For if once the authenticity (authentia) of the Scriptures is taken away (which would result even from the incurable corruption of one passage), how could our faith rest on what remains? And if corruption is admitted in those of lesser importance, why not in others of greater? Who could assure me that no error or blemish had crept into fundamental passages?”

NOTE: Talk about textual absolutism. Turretin, again writing the standard Systematic Theology of his day, plainly says that one incurable corruption would take away the authenticity and therefore authority of Scripture. Just one. Then he goes on to argue almost word for word what Tim and the TCC believe is “textual absolutist logic”. Turretin’s position is that if we admit error in the lesser things, or in one thing, why can’t their be error in fundamental things, in major doctrinal things?

Also at around [30:25] Hixon says that Dirk Jongkind says every word of God is so important, it is worth losing sleep over. Well, to Dirk and the TCC, here is what losing sleep looks like. If you admit corruption in the small things then you have no grounds to exclude corruption in the fundamental things because the small things and the fundamental things are the same thing, inspired Scripture. That, indeed, is something to lose sleep over.

But wait there’s more. Right around the 15 second mark Peter says, “We don’t need to be more orthodox than God.” This is a clip from later in the conversation where Peter states his belief that because there are errors in the text and textual tradition, that is what God gave us and we should be thankful for that. Turretin, argues quite the opposite.

“It will not do to say that divine providence wished to keep it from serious corruptions, but not from minor. For besides the fact that this is gratuitous, it cannot be held without injury, as if lacking in the necessity of things which are required for the full credibility (autopiston) of Scripture itself. Nor can we readily believe that God, who dictated and inspired each and every word to these inspired (theopneustois) men, would not take care of their entire preservation.”

The point is, Peter and the rest of the TCC, have a low Bibliology and a low Theology Proper because their low Bibliology scared them as kids and now they are scared of variants. So they are comfortable with straying from orthodox Bibliology and Theology Proper so they can make their point based on some shallow view of divine providence. For the rest of you out there, don’t ever tell me that no major doctrine is at stake when I have an example here of two Ph.D.’s and a Ph.D. candidate reframing orthodox Bibliology and Theology Proper just so they can substantiate their novel claims born out of the chaos of their youth.

And this is just Turretin. What about William Twiss, Edward Leigh, and William Whitaker? The TCC simply does not know what they are talking about. They have not done the reading. They have not done the study. The most charitable reason for this I think is that they simply weren’t trained right. I lay a fair bit of blame at the feet of their uninformed and scholastically effete professors.

5.) Lastly, at [54:28] Tim is quoting from Miles Smith and on the screen near the bottom right of the text you see the word “Original”. Note the capital letter “O”. The reason why Smith wrote “Original” and not “original” is because he believed the Greek and Hebrew in his hand were the very words of Moses and the apostles. Note at [47:57] Tim is again quoting but this time from Daniel Featley. Featley is comparing translations and “the originals”. But note how Featley defines the originals, “…or else we must read none at all till we have a translation given by divine inspiration, as the originals are.”

Featley does not day “as the originals were”. No, he says as they “are”. Again, Featley along with Smith believed the Greek and Hebrew in their hand were the exact same words as those written at the hand of Moses and Paul and John. But in case there is still doubt, here is Turretin saying the same thing.

“By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean the apographs which are so called because because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Turretin maintains that at his time and 85 years after the writing of the KJV that the Greek and Hebrew in use “sets forth the word of God in the very words” of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles.

The point is that the KJV translators, in fact all the orthodox, WERE textual absolutists of the Hill/Letis sort, and yet these facts have wholly alluded the TCC. These truths were literally right in front of their faces. They were undermining their own position without even knowing it. They were reading the quotes and yet because of their weak Bibliology could not see the forest for the trees.

With such failures in scholarship it is hard to believe anything good will come of the TCC other than continued clear examples of their ineptitude in field of orthodox Bibliology. I love these guys in the Lord, but so far these guys are lost and wondering, and somebody has got to tell them.

Next week they say they are going to discuss the theology of textual absolutism. Be sure there will more and greater scholarly gaffes. I am beginning to wonder if the proper analysis of the TCC come the last episode will be something like:

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