The Textual Confidence Collective: Having Confidence in Everything But Scripture

Today we have arrived at the penultimate episode of the Textual Confidence Collective [TCC] – Episode 6: This Pious Labor. At the beginning I had much higher hopes until around Episode 3 when it dawned on me that the whole thing was probably going to be an If-You’re-On-Our-Team-You’ll-Like-It-If-Not-Ya-Wont kind of affair. Once I had recalibrated my expectations the TCC has been everything I thought and hoped it would be.

Today confirmed those thoughts and hopes.

1.) A Few Preliminary Notes – The greater bulk of the conversation seemed to be carried by Peter, and the content of that conversation revolved around sniping IFB KJVO types. This or course is one of the dangers of lumping so many groups under “absolutism”, a critique we made from the beginning. It is also indicative of their prior trauma as former IFB KJVO folks. Having now listened to 6 hours of this I am beginning to doubt if they ever had enough material to take on the arguments of those like Hills and Riddle. When the TCC can’t poke at Confessional Bibliology they go back to that whipping-boy of their traumatic KJVO past.

Such examples include the insistence on critiquing the 2-Streams theory and the Textual-Criticism-Only-Happened-With-Westcott-And-Hort theory. Hills, Letis, Riddle, and we here at rejected and reject these theories, and the TCC is most likely aware of this fact. It appears then that Episode 6 would have been more aptly titled, This Pious Work of Sticking it to Those IFB KJVO Folks.

2.) Instead, the TCC boldly entitled this episode, This Pious Labor. If we take “pious” in its most charitable light we are to believe that textual criticism is a devoutly religious endeavor. What exactly makes modern textual criticism devoutly religious? Given the title of Episode 6 it appears that the ball has been teed up awaiting the TCC batter to come to the plate.

Unfortunately for them, the TCC does not defend their piety from Scripture but rather from a handful of quotes provided by various Church Fathers and the like. I like Church Fathers and I like quotes but without sound exegesis the standard for why textual criticism is a “pious labor” ends up being because Church Fathers and the like say it is. What is more the TCC seems unaware or unwilling to recognize this shortcoming and as such their argument for a pious work falls flat…or flatly Roman Catholic.

A couple years ago I was teaching a class on world religions at Trinity Baptist College. As part of the experience, I had a 30-something Jesuit Priest come and tell my students about the Roman Catholic faith for about 3 hours. He did exactly as the TCC did in defending their pious work. The priest assumed the Roman Catholic position was pious and defended it not by quoting and exegeting Scripture but by quoting Church Fathers. And why not? The authority of the Bible for a Roman Catholic is derived from the authority of the College of Cardinals. Here it seems for the TCC that the authority of the Bible ultimately derives from the authority of the college of scholars and/or what they think is the best reading.

I’m not saying that the TCC is Roman Catholic, but it is necessary to point out that the support which these TCC evangelicals offered in defense of how they treat the Bible was not from the Bible itself but primarily from Church Fathers and other Medievals. On this point the TCC’s confidence is not a textual confidence but a Patristic/Medieval confidence.

3.) Furthermore, textual criticism seemed to be portrayed as inherently pious or at a minimum, an inherent good. Each time text-critics, who were also noted opponents of the Christian faith, were brought up their opposition was largely ignored and their work uncriticized. At no point was the work of textual criticism critiqued, is the point. The message then is that textual criticism is always good and if it is not good then it is only slightly not good – a superficial blemish not worth noting. On this point the TCC’s confidence is not a textual confidence but an extra-biblical methodological confidence.

4.) At [~53:30] Ward states that “more evidence leads to more stability.” I cringed when I heard this. This is not the case in so many sectors. Indeed, the more evidence there is the more the picture can be obscured and variously interpreted. Take for instance the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Every piece of evidence introduced each day called for opposing opinions by very educated men: the gun, the barrel length, the sequence of events, the video, the clarity/quality of the video, the admissibility of the video, the number of rounds shot, the sound of the round, was that a rifle sound or a pistol sound, experts saying one thing and then attempted debunking of that expert, and all to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And then after it was all over and all the evidence was on the table all kinds of professionals and non-professionals disagreed on the verdict. And what did they disagree about? They disagreed on everything from unfounded affective concerns to the interpretation of the evidence to the ineptitude of the lawyers that lost.

Something closer to home would be the debate over the age of the universe. With the advent of the Hubble and now Webb space telescopes neither side has budged from their position given the mountains of evidence that continue to come in. If there is any stability to be had by having more evidence it is that many are more stable in the position they held before the evidence came in. In fact, there are a host of evangelicals Christians who have little problem with a 13.8 billion year old universe so long as God is at the helm. Surprise surprise, Christians are looking at the evidence and saying, “God didn’t really mean 6 six literal sequential day creation. I mean look at all the evidence.” The TCC is playing the same game but instead it looks like, “Jesus didn’t really mean jot and tittle. I mean look at all the textual evidence.” Same song. Different lyrics.

In writing this post something just occurred to me. Since I was a kid my Dad and co-contributor to this blog, who has defended the TR/KJV since I was a kid, observed that Darwin shifted biology, Marx shifted economics, Kant shifted philosophy, Freud shifted psychology, and Westcott and Hort shifted theology and all for the worse. Now we have prominent Christians picking up the mantle of these men in so many ways. Listen, I love these men in the Lord but it is a bit unsettling to me to see the robust efforts of the Church in keeping these things alive. Consider the following.

William Lane Craig, a brilliant Christian philosopher and rhetorician, has recently argued that Adam evolved and that the Genesis story is mytho-history. The evolution of man is THE central and most catastrophic theme of Darwin’s work and it is retained in evangelicalism.

Over the COVID season, the evangelical Church became more the property and servant of Washington DC than she would like to admit. The Church in America was no closer to Socialism in America than at that moment. Religion was seen as a non-essential drug of the masses and churches all over America agreed and found ways to close their doors. Now many of those same churches are having a hard time opening their doors up. The American Church was carrying Marx’s water.

Classical or Evidential Christian apologetics is the rule of the day. As R.C. Sproul points out in The Consequences of Ideas, the reason is because Kant’s treatment of the reliability of a priori knowledge was so devastating and no Christian or Christian dogma has been able to conquer that treatment. Those of us who demur and claim Presuppositionalism does that work just fine are chided for our lack of epistemological humility and circular reasoning. /yawn The point is that most Christian colleges and universities are propping up Kant and castigating those who wont.

As Carl Trueman points out in his excellent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, we are all Expressive Individualists/Modern Selves even those in the Church, which accounts for church-hopping, pastor-hopping, and while we are at it, Bible-hopping. The more we church-hop, pastor-hop, and Bible-hop the more Modern we become. And what is the Modern Self other than the marriage of Marx and Freud? So here we are propping up the intellectual evils of the 19th century and early 20 century while being proud of it.

Then we get the Wallaces and Whites of the world along with the TCC doing the “pious work” of Westcott and Hort and Griesbach and Lachmann. All the while calling it “textual confidence.” I’m beginning to think the TCC means “textual confidence” in the way the Inflation Reduction Act means “inflation reduction”.

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