Yesterday the fourth episode of the Textual Confidence Collective [TCC] dropped. As I said in yesterday’s post, I thought this was easily the most low energy episode so far. It is almost like they were bored by their own podcast. Still, they managed to put out some interesting tidbits and enough to critique.
I know that some have already noted certain historical errors perpetuated by the TCC. I will leave those notes to those who made the observations. For my part I want to critique the meta-argument behind the TCC. They are certainly building argumentative structures but it seems they are building those structures on unfounded foundations.
Unfounded foundations?! That sounds like an oxymoron, a contradiction. An unfounded foundation is like a wise fool. Indeed, I believe this is the case that such contradiction lie at the foundation of the TCC. Allow me to put forward my reasons.
1.) I addressed this in a prior post but it bears repeating. The TCC tells us that they have embarked on this podcast to help people have confidence in their Bible and they hope to do so by striking a position somewhere between skepticism and what they call absolutism. Yet in doing so they repeatedly enjoin upon their hearers to embrace a certain level of doubt, doubt about their translation, doubt about the manuscript tradition, doubt about the exegesis of certain Scripture passages, doubt about certain passages of Scripture by the inclusion of brackets in the Greek and in the translation. The TCC seeks to increase people’s confidence in the Bible by ensuring a robust and/or appropriate measure of doubt. In other words they seek for a doubtful confidence or a confident doubt.
In episode four the TCC solidified this truth around [51:25] when Berg claims that certainty in the Scriptures is a Roman Catholic argument, thus employing the guilt-by association-fallacy. Not two minutes before that Ward says the textual sceptic latches onto this idea that a lack of certainty equals a lack of authority therefore the Bible isn’t authoritative. Then Ward skips over his “middle way” position and says of the “absolutists” that their desire for certainty is unwarranted. But interestingly enough he does not mention certainty at all with regard to his position. And fair enough. He is being honest here and is embracing doubt as a fundamental element of his position while at the same time trying to preach confidence. And doubt is no foundation at all, thus this first unfounded foundation undergirds the TCC.
2.) Then there is this persistence in quoting the scholars from the late 16th, early 17th century [20:42]. I completely understand why the TCC is quoting these men. It’s so the TCC can somehow shoehorn themselves into the Reformation. But at least two facts remain and again the TCC seems wholly ignorant of these facts.
One, scholars have their opinion on what text is the text of Scripture. Fine, but the scholars opinion, whether that be Erasmus or the KJV translators is not authoritative in the choosing of that reading. So what if Beza and Erasmus didn’t believe their text was the original. 1.) On a personal level, their failure to believe is between them and God. 2.) On an ecclesiastical level, the believing community is not bound to what Beza or Erasmus believe about their Bible. Indeed, any Christian who puts their faith in Beza or Erasmus’ belief is a Christian who has misplaced their belief. In the end though it is the Spirit of God moving through the people of God in the words of God by faith that Erasmus’ or Beza’s choice or scholarly opinion is regarded as true or false.
Here the TCC has built so much of their argument on scholar X doubts this or that. Again, scholars doubt but their doubt is not authoritative nor is it ground for affecting one’s faith. Erasmus could say until the day he dies that this or that passage is not original but his opinion, being a man’s opinion is not autopistos [self-credible in itself] and therefore has far less bearing on a person’s belief than the words that currently appear in his Bible and have appeared their for centuries.
In other words, if the words are in the Bible the scholar faces an insurmountable obstacle in attempting to change those words because only the Spirit of God moving in the people of God to believe the text has matured in space and time can cause that change. In short, the words of Erasmus can at best only be a footnote, a commercial, compared to the profound and impelling work of the Spirit in the lives of His people to recognize His words.
While the TCC’s argument is almost wholly dependent upon the deliverances of text critical scholars, it is not so for Confessional Bibliology. In the end scholars are but humble tools who work in submission to the Holy Spirit as He moves the Bride of Christ to receive the words of the Bridegroom.
Two, the Reformation sources chosen by the TCC are those at the fledgling stages of the debate over the authority and certainty of the Scriptures. These are not the giants of the Reformation who constructed complex Bibliologies in response to Roman Catholic polemics like those of Bellarmine and Stapleton. Rather the people quoted by the TCC are those at the very beginning of the struggle. In fact, most of them if not all of them even refrain from a formal treatment of Bibliology. Look at John Calvin’s Institutes for a perfect example.
Calvin used the loci method in presenting his Systematic Theology and low and behold he has no formal treatment of the doctrine of Scripture, in large part because it was thought there was no need for one. Enter the second wave of the Reformation and the story changes. Rome has ramped up its offensive, the Reformation is taking hold, and formal Bibliologies begin to form. Then comes the Third Wave and the Reformation response is even greater. But this is not where the TCC goes. They simply say, “Hey, we are quoting Reformers so that makes our Bibliology Reformed, or we have fairly represented your position.” Bah, it’s laughable.
They certainly wouldn’t let us hold them accountable to the textual criticism of Westcott and Hort because they would say the textual criticism of today is different enough, and yet they insist on choosing the most fledgling expressions of Reformed Bibliology.
I remember writing a paper on Aquinas once and to vary my sources instead of quoting from his Summa Theologica I quoted from his Summa Contra Gentiles but the quote was more obscure. I remember my prof critiquing me because there were plenty of places in Summa Theologica in which the argument was clearer and the point better made. The same is the case here for the TCC. They chose the least refined Bibliology of the Reformation and set up camp like Midianites in the time of Gideon. Their foundation in Reformed theology is not a foundation at all and its not like Riddle and the rest haven’t tried to point them in the right direction. I mean how many times have we said, “Turretin, Whitaker, and Owen”, but somehow they never make the list in times of critiquing our position.
3.) It was interesting that around the [16:35, 19:50] mark that the TCC blamed the cohesion and codification of Beza’s TR and subsequent TR’s, not on the providence of God, but on the lack of technology. But when the TCC is charged with supporting and/or creating multifarious Bibles the TCC claims that the technology IS the providence of God.
This again seems to show the myopic approach of the TCC. To casually introduce the role of technology in an ethical environment [i.e., the source of Christian ethics, the Bible] and insinuate that advancement in technology is good while primitive technology is bad is yet another trait which puts the TCC squarely in the camp of Deathworks indicative of modern Expressive Individualism.
The point is that we regard the continued codification or cohesion of the text at the time of Beza to be the providence of God. Indeed, that cohesion continued in the TR line for centuries and in America for over 400 years. Furthermore, the TCC regards this cohesion as merely a symptom of the limitations of technology without giving any thought to the fact that current technology may be bad, indeed worse for Bibles and the Church.
What is more the TCC’s treatment of providence here again highlights the fact that the TCC seems to think that the providence of God over a thing is always for its betterment. This of course is a ridiculous thing to hold. Simply because you can say that God’s hand of providence was over Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort does not mean the work they were doing was de facto good God-honoring work consistent with what the Bible teaches about itself.
In fact, they could simply be the equivalent of what the Babylonians where to Israel. The Babylonians were instruments of God’s providence but the work they came to do was to slaughter God’s chosen people and send them into exile, into a land that did not serve God nor spoke their language. Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort could simply be instruments of God’s providence to attack and harm the Church and to send the West into spiritual exile.
So how do we know if Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort are destroyers like Bablyon or deliverers like Gideon? Well, there is only one way to know and that is to compare the thoughts and work of these men with what the Bible teaches about itself. And seeing that the TCC have been unable to point to a single verse teaching the providential preservation of God’s words, it appears the TCC will never know if Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort are destroyers like Bablyon or deliverers like Gideon. But that doesn’t keep the TCC from building their arguments on the deliverances of these men. So again we see now for the third time the unfounded foundations of the TCC.
4.) Two quick notes. One, at [47:50] Matt says “If you think you have everything nailed down your problem is one of pride.” First, this is a strawman. No one is staying they have everything nailed down. Second, if Jesus says every jot and tittle is preserved then I can believe that without being proud and certainly Jesus isn’t in need of epistemic humility. Third, having grown up in the IFB at my Christian High-School this quick charge of pride is a hallmark of the IFB. It is apparent for Matt that he can get himself out of an IFB church but he can’t get the IFB church out of himself.
Two, at [58:38] Ward says the Bible is for the plowboy. Sorry, such a statement is silly and incorrect to boot. The Bible is for the Church and the Church is not merely composed of or led by children. The KJV is for the Church in America and the Church in America has free government education up to the first two years of college. The vast majority of “plowboys” in this country are so because they will themselves to be and because of the teaching of those like the TCC, not because the KJV is out of their intellectual reach.