An Analysis of the Textual Confidence Collective’s Collective Doubt

I have found it interesting over these last couple weeks that the Textual Confidence Collective aims to strengthen their listeners in Biblical confidence. Yet, without exception each episode thus far has keyed off the doubt we all must properly have:

1.) Doubt that the TR is the word of God down to the very words and letters.
2.) Doubt that “jot and tittle” means jot and tittle in Matthew 5:18.
3.) Stories of their own personal doubt [a doubt so strong 3 of the 4 rejected the doctrine of Preservation at some point in their professional journey].
4.) Doubt that anyone’s English Bible is absolutely God’s word.
5.) Doubt that the Bible even teaches Providential Preservation.
6.) Doubt that Psalm 12:6-7 speaks of preserving God’s words.
7.) Doubt that we will ever have every word of God between two covers.
8.) They attempt to cast doubt on Confessional Bibliology.
9.) Doubt that we can understand Early Modern English.
10.) PLUS MUCH MUCH MORE…and all this for three easy instalments of 1 hour and 5 minutes per episode.

This insistence upon doubt is of course completely in line with the current evangelical academic approach. Consider the following quote from two evangelicals regarding the CBGM,

“A second type of textual change is less obvious but still worth noting. Along with the changes to the text just mentioned, there has also been a slight increase in the ECM editors’ uncertainty about the text, an uncertainty that has been de facto adopted by the editors of NA/UBS.”

Wasserman and Gurry, A New Approach, 6.

Not here that the editors of the NA/UBS Greek text have de facto [i.e., as a matter of fact] adopted this posture of uncertainty, or put in positive terms, this posture of doubt.

In the same book the authors observe,

““In all, there were in the Catholic Letters thirty-two uses of brackets comparted to forty-three uses of the diamond and in Acts seventy-eight cases of brackets compared to 155 diamonds. This means that there has been an increase in both the number of places marked as uncertain and an increase in the level of uncertainty being marked.”

Wasserman and Gurry, A New Approach, 7.

In the first quote they claim only a “slight increase” in uncertainty/doubt, but when they give us the actual numbers there is a 33% increase in uncertain/doubtful passages in the General Epistles and nearly over a 100% increase in uncertain/doubtful passages in Acts. Let me know if you would increase a 100% increase in your paycheck as a slight increase.

My point is that the TCC and those of similar academic persuasion sail their respective ships on the winds of doubt. The question now is what kind of doubt.

Over the course of my Ph.D. work I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Gary Habermas, arguably the world’s leading Christian Evidentialist apologist. Years ago Habermas’ wife passed away and this tragedy sent him on a journey of doubt and ultimately a discovery of God’s grace. As part of his offerings at Liberty University he would teach a class on doubt and particularly doubt in the Christian life.

While I never took that class Dr. Habermas would frequently reference his work in that field because of doubt’s presence in the doing of apologetics. I distinctly remember one particular observation of his. He was talking to a room of 12 guys and 2 ladies, all Ph.D. students, and he made the observation that in his experience it is men who suffer most from emotional doubt, or that doubt that arises from “what-ifs”. It is not the data that cause men to doubt generally, but the perceived potential of what the data might entail that causes them to doubt what they believe.

After hearing the testimony of the TCC, I couldn’t help but observe this very thing. They saw the data of manuscript variations. They had no meaningful response to that data. That caused them to consider the perceived potential of what that data might entail, [i.e., Jesus couldn’t have really preserved every jot and tittle, the Bible must not teach the doctrine of Preservation], and so they each endured a paradigm shift epistemologically and theologically.

Habermas observes in Dealing with Doubt,

“It [emotional doubt] perhaps most frequently masquerades as intellectual doubt and hence does not immediately reveal its disguised emotional basis.”

And why is it that emotional doubt masquerades as intellectual doubt? For Habermas there are several reasons, but perhaps the most germane is

“When no amount of evidence (which the doubter admits to be strong) ever brings a person at least some peace, even when these facts are properly applied, and especially when small, “picky” problems are continually raised, such most likely reveals either an emotional basis or the will not to believe (volitional).”

The evidence here is that Jesus said “jot and tittle” without any meaningful hermeneutical cue, unless of course Jesus also didn’t mean literal heaven and earth which is all literal creation. What is more in episode 3 of the TCC, they all agree at [01:01:43] that God has preserved all the literal jots and tittles in the manuscript tradition. The point is that in the face of evidence that their Lord and Savior declares they simply cannot believe their Bible has all the jots and tittles.

In fact the reason why they don’t believe is because of “picky problems.” The entire TCC maintain that no major point of Christianity is affected by the variants they see in the manuscript tradition. This is the very definition of not believing what Jesus said because of “picky problems.”

Habermas quotes Blaise Pascal in order to given an illustration of emotional doubt. He writes,

“If the greatest philosopher in the world find himself upon a plank wider than actually necessary, but hanging over a precipice, his imagination will prevail, though his reason convince him of his safety. Many cannot bear the thought without a cold sweat. I will not state all its effects.”

Blaise Pascal, Pensees: Thoughts on Religion and Other Subjects, translated by William Finlayson Trotter, edited by H. S. Thayer (New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1965), 82,

To borrow Pascal’s words, it seems the greatest of the TCC were left merely with the words “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law” they would believe it without reservation that neither a letter nor a part of a letter would pass away from God’s law. Take that same verse and put it over the chasm of manuscript variants and the TCC’s imagination prevailed, a theological cold sweat formed, and fear of perceived potentials overcame them.

This seems similar to that of Peter walking on the water. The words of Christ are easy to trust while in the boat but when the winds and waves of textual variants and robust intelligent arguments began to swirl about the TCC they began to sink beneath the waves. All that is left for them to say is, “Lord, save me.” To which He will respond, “Oh thou of little faith.”

Again, discussing emotional doubt, Habermas employs the words of C.S. Lewis when he writes,

“Our faith in Christ wavers not so much when real arguments come against it as when it looks improbable.”

Lewis, “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” p. 43.

And is this not the issue with the TCC? It is the improbability that their Greek NT is the word for word original that drives them to doubt that their Greek NT is the word for word original. They are in the same boat as Daniel Wallace when he writes,

“We do not have now in any of our critical Greek texts – or in any translation – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we couldn’t know it. There are many many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”

Daniel Wallace, “Foreword” in Elijah Hixson & Peter Gurry. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

Note again the theme of uncertainty/doubt. Their ecclesiastical/academic house cannot be built without it. Elijah Hixon is on the TCC and the Foreward to Hixon and Gurry’s book readily claims that even if we did have the exact words of the original “we couldn’t know it.” Such robust doubt for someone who is supposed to be instilling textual confidence, don’t you think?

The TCC is no different. They trade in doubt in an attempt to buy “textual confidence.”

But I can here the objection now, “No, no it is the TR/KJV folks who are experiencing emotional doubt on the issue. The differences ARE minor and therefore the TR/KJV folks should come to our side. They are the one’s being too picky. They are the one’s who are irrationally uncertain about the features and values of modern textual criticism.”

This is a silly objection. As we have seen in this post alone, modern textual criticism can’t help but be uncertain, indeed, de facto uncertain. The leaders in the field like Hixon, Gurry, and Wallace readily admit increases in uncertainty over the last 150 years, and Wallace plainly admits that “many many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.” For a TR/KJV advocate to doubt the deliverances of modern textual criticism is right in line with modern textual criticism’s confession and creed.

The Bible on the other hand gives no such allowances. No where does the text of Scripture call the Christian to doubt the words of God. In fact that opposite is true. Those who doubt the words of God are called out as Sarah was when she laughed at the promise of a son in her old age [Genesis 18], or struck mute as Zechariah was at hearing John the Baptist, his son, would be born [Luke 1].

In short, the TCC remains quite distinctly within the “tradition of doubt” necessary to be a good modern evangelical in the Slipping 21st Century. We here at StandardSacredText.com have set out to question that tradition of doubt, and to instill a real textual confidence. “Con” meaning “with” and “fide” meaning “faith”, a faith that can only come by the hearing of the word of God as the very voice of God which cannot be doubtful or uncertain no matter the emotional wind and waves that arise.

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