Well, I have finally finished watching the third episode of the Textual Confidence Collective [TCC]. First, as I predicted they wholly ignored or were completely unaware of the Spirit/word/faith paradigm prevalent throughout Reformed Bibliology, and they chose a handful of verses and then told us what they think those verses don’t mean. So A+ there. Second, the TCC’s trauma, a result of the weak Bibliology from their youth, took on a new dimension in this episode.
As in prior episodes, there is so much to talk about but we will focus on more major themes. As an aside, though if they would have simply had Riddle or someone of that stripe on the TCC, he could have helped them get our position right, but alas, the TCC is turning out to be a mere exercise in group-think fumbling their way into their own end zone. But if they want to take the field with an inept team, so be it. So let’s begin.
1.) Just as in the second episode that promised to be “The History of Textual Absolutism” but which actually turned out to be “How We Would Like to Critique Textual Absolutism (With Some History Sprinkled In)”, so too this episode, “The Theology of Textual Absolutism,” turned out to be “How We Would Like to Critique Textual Absolutism (With Some Theology Sprinkled In)”. We are now three hours into their discussion and they have yet to offer a robust argument fairly representing their opponents. Admittedly though that is hard to do seeing they intentionally lumped Ruckmanites and Hills into the same category, textual absolutist.
2.) I have two observations about the trauma of the TCC. First, I find it interesting that when each of the TCC were young they abandoned the KJV because they were faced with questions they couldn’t answer. And to the man, the questions they couldn’t answer revolved around textual variants. They asked themselves something like, “How could I hold to a pure Bible if there are so many variants?” This question, or something like it, caused them to abandon their position and set up shop someplace else that could account for these variants. The interesting thing is that now it is the variants upon which they are still fixated. They have not resolved the existence of variants, they have simply come to live with them. So much so, that they are prepared to blame God for their existence [15:10, 29:43, 30:47]. In sum, the TCC was hung up on variants when they were young and ill equipped and now they are older and better equipped but still hung up on variants.
Now, because they cannot resolve the existence of variants with a belief in a pure text, they then go about a campaign of negative theology. That is, they begin to believe and tell us that the standard passages used to defend the preservation of Scripture throughout Church History do not teach preservation. In sum, their journey has been something like:
Weak Bibliology > They are challenged by variants > They abandon their weak Bibliology b/c of the variants > They cling to a modern and equally weak Bibliology > They fail to reconcile the existence of variants with a belief in a pure text > They go with the existence of variants and abandon a belief in a pure text > As a result they reinterpret the Bible to make it fit their trauma.
This leads me to my second observation. In the span of less than an hour Tim [~32:00], Elijah [40:05], and Mark [54:47] all plainly confess that during this time of trauma over the existence of variants in the face of their weak Bibliology they denied the doctrine of Preservation. At this point, I have to say only people with garbage arguments claim that no major doctrine is at stake given the known variants in the manuscript tradition. Three guys, raised in the Church, professing Christians plainly and clearly say that they had for a time abandoned the doctrine of Preservation. What is more, such an abandonment is right next door to Bart Ehrman who just never came back from it. For Elijah, he denied the doctrine or Preservation even into his Ph.D. work. So the full paradigm to this point is:
Weak Bibliology > They are challenged by variants > They abandon their weak Bibliology b/c of the variants > They cling to a modern and equally weak Bibliology > They fail to reconcile the existence of variants with a belief in a pure text > They then go with the existence of variants and abandon a belief in a pure text > As a result they reinterpret the Bible to make it fit their trauma > They abandon the doctrine of preservation.
3.) Then at [10:19] we get from Peter, “If the Bible taught that it was perfectly preserved it does not tell what it is or how to find it.” This crops up again in the words of Mark at [20:52], “If Jesus is talking about perfect textual preservation, It has to be peerrrfect!” The same theme shows up at [10:55 and 36:46]. This is where the TCC should have addressed the Spirit/word/faith paradigm which looks like,
“As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”Isaiah 59:21
See that? God has made covenant with His people, a covenant He cannot break, to put words into the mouth of His people and accompany those words with His Spirit. Furthermore, those words which God put in their mouth and which are accompanied by the Spirit shall never depart out of the mouth of God’s people from that time until forever. It is no surprise then that right thinking theology repeats this very same truth. Consider the following:
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, “…notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward word of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” [WCF 1.5] Or Richard Muller commenting on Calvin, “What we have in Calvin’s doctrine is the simple assertion of the absolute truth of Scripture, its dictation by the Spirit, and the inward testimony of the Spirit guaranteeing the authority of the written Word” [Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2, 301]. God’s Spirit/God’s Word/God’s people by faith – the Spirit/word/faith paradigm. Or as we are like to say here at StandardSacredText.com, the Spirit of God speaking through the word of God in the people of God.” This is the mechanism whereby the Church can receive a perfectly preserved text.
The TCC seems utterly ignorant of this theological truth, a cornerstone of orthodox Bibliology and the ground for the doctrine of providential preservation. And it’s not like you have to dig deep to find this truth. If you read less than four pages of the Westminster Confession of Faith you would encounter the quote above. I can only surmise why the TCC has failed to observe such an elementary truth, but one thing is certain. The TCC’s claim to charity and “getting the textual absolutist position right” are laughable and disingenuous given that at least two of the TCC have Ph.D.’s in theology, or at least that is what their Ph.D. title says, and yet they seem entirely unaware of such a basic element of Bibliology and how it works in preservation.
4.) I am a Young Earth Creationist. Furthermore, I think arguments in favor of a standard sacred text are quite congruous with Young Earth Creationism. For one, evidence is not my final authority in either case. That said, I find the juxtaposition of how the TCC treats the Creation story vs how they treat the text of Scripture is quite telling. They all, with the exception of Elijah, seemed to indicate that no matter how much evidence you throw at them, they are going to believe in literal sequential six-day Creation.
So no matter how much evidence there is for an old universe [trillions of stars and their light, the size of the universe, the number of Christian and non-Christian Ph.D.’s that disagree with them, and on and on], they are going to believe that God spoke the worlds into existence in six literal sequential days. But, all it takes, by their estimation, is a comparatively small number of manuscript variants which are said not to affect doctrine at all, including the doctrine of providential preservation, and they are ready to believe “jot and tittle” doesn’t mean “jot and tittle” while still believing that ‘day” means “day” even with exponentially more evidence leveled against them that the universe is old.
The TCC on Creation: *Mountain of evidence that the universe old* – “So what, ‘day’ means ‘day.’ I’m following the Bible.”
The TCC on Scripture: *A comparatively small amount of variants as evidence* – “Oh yeah, definitely ‘jot and tittle’ does not mean ‘jot and tittle.'”
I fear their weak Bibliology is leading to an incongruous Cosmology as well. But that should be the case given that the source for all their Christian beliefs is the Scripture which they believe is not pure.
In fact, for the TCC evidence is not the primary mover for their belief in a young Creation, the Bible is. Yet for the TCC evidence is the primary mover for their belief in an impure text, and then they reinterpret the Bible in a novel way to suite their belief. This is no different than William Lane Craig reinterpreting Scripture to turn the Genesis account into mytho-history or to claim that God is logically dependent upon man. The TCC starts with something else [evidence] and then makes the Bible fit. We start with the Bible and make the evidence fit, and we believe it fits like a glove.
5.) Miscellaneous Considerations: I do believe that toil and trust can go hand-in-hand e.g., work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. This is not to say we are to go about doubting our salvation as we grow in sanctification but rather that we are to remain sure in our salvation as we grow in sanctification.
The same, I argue, goes for the text of Scripture. At [1:01:43] the TCC admit that all jots and tittles are preserved in the manuscript tradition, which is hilarious because they first claimed that Jesus didn’t mean literal jots and tittles and by the end of the episode they admit Jesus has kept all the literal jots and tittle for His Church. Like, which is it guys? Did Jesus accidently preserve all the jots and tittle because He didn’t really mean jots and tittles in Matthew 5:18?
Furthermore, simply because I work out my salvation with fear and trembling does not mean I should be in constant fear of Hell as a Christian. Rather John would remind us that we may KNOW that we have eternal life [1 John 5:13]. As a true Christian are we to doubt the efficacy of Jesus salvific work even when we fail at some point? No! In fact we are called to believe in that efficacy even when we don’t see it, for He which has begun a good work in you will perform it [Philippians 1:6]. In like manner the Scriptures.
No where in Scripture is the Christian given leave to doubt God’s words or to do as the TCC does and plainly proclaim God’s word to be impure and that by God’s own hand in history. Does that omit toil from the textual picture? No, it does not. Toil away, but know that, and even by your admission, all of the jot and tittles are present in the textual tradition. Therefore, the fight is not about whether we have all the jots and tittles, but rather which jots and tittles are the one’s God gave, and this is were we diverge sharply.
We wholly and unequivocally deny that textual scholars are the ones equipped to make authoritative choices about what is or is not the right choice regarding which jots and tittles. Yet Peter unabashedly says at [58:00] “The people in the congregation should trust what I say unless I give them reason other wise.” Which is about as Roman Catholic as it comes. If Peter were Pope Peter every Protestant watching would have been up in arms, but because Peter is a Protestant Ph.D. candidate he is accepted without criticism.
Instead, we here argue for the Spirit/word/faith paradigm discussed above and which the TCC seems wholly ignorant of.
But one retort might be, as Elijah says at [58:22], “As a text critic I am not strong enough to mess up God’s word.” Yet, he seems wholly unaware that his observation cuts both ways. If he is not strong enough to mess up God’s word he is not strong enough to “fix” God’s word, and yet he persists in thinking he can. Put the other way around. If he is strong enough to fix God’s word then he is strong enough to mess it up. In context, Elijah and those like him are not “strong enough” to tell us what is not God’s word nor are they “strong enough” to tell us what is. Unfortunately Elijah is only half right on this point.
In the end, the TCC continues to show itself bereft of elementary theological constructs and their application while putting themselves forward as experts. They continue to show their trauma precipitated by poor theological training both when they were young AND when they went to seminary. The TCC has turned out to be a preach-to-the-choir exercise rather than a reach-across-the-isle exercise. They have moved the ball no further down the field. Rather and unfortunately they have shown themselves to possess a shallow Bibliology. And like Ward’s False Friends argument, their call is not to do the hard work of answering the conflict between variants and a pure text. No the answer is to reframe theology to fit their current social, academic, and ecclesiastical frameworks.