The objection made by Dr. Van Kleeck that caused Dr. White to bristle perhaps the most was Dr. Van Kleeck’s observation that White’s argument was wholly secular being void of any Scriptural support. After listening to the debate, we understand how adamant White is about the priority of manuscript evidence and how essential, in his opinion, his kind of analysis of the evidence is to the well-being of the Church. Dr. Van Kleeck used the term “transcendentless” to describe White’s secular perspectives, which is to say that he actively rejected anything noumenal or spiritual and limited the discussion of God’s word to the natural, historical, and phenomenal.
White’s line of argumentation, in addition to its obsolescence, was overtly and approvingly secular in that it was purposely void of any exegetical or theological grounding. Indeed, the only instances where Scripture was uttered by White was to disprove historic, orthodox, exegetically based renderings and replaced with interpretations that had suffered the impact of rationalistic intrusion. The most egregious demonstration of creating doubt in the minds of the audience was his rendition of the multiple failures of Erasmus in the formulation of the Book of Revelation that had not been excised and for four centuries have been the source of multiple erroneous readings in the TR and subsequently, the King James Bible. No one had to say King James Bible; the inference was crystal clear. The sowing of these seeds of doubt so disturbed one lady in the audience that she approached Dr. Van Kleeck to help resolve the internal conflict created by Dr. White. Should someone have to counsel a saint to “trust your Bible” after listening to a debate? One can but conjecture that this dear lady was not the only casualty of White’s presentation.
Corroborating the argument for White’s secularism was his pejorative attitude toward prayer. Implying that prayer was the sole means of determining scholarly decisions demonstrated his incapacity to grasp the opposing argument while at the same time diminishing the crucial importance of prayer to any academic or theological enterprise. Kings and presidents ask God for help but White used prayer as a laugh line in a late-night comedy skit. One must infer from the marginalization of the importance of prayer that this is not his practice. If it was, he would know its essential importance and that prayer is not something to mock.
White casually dismissed what has been an entire paradigm shift in TC work from discovering the autographs to beginning with the “initial” text. If Wasserman and Gurry are correct in their assessment of data and the conclusion that only the initial not the original text of Scripture is scientifically discoverable, (which they are), then, Westcott, Hort, Tregelles, Warfield, Wikgren, Martini, Black, Aland, Nestles, Metzger, et al., along with all their pliant evangelical and fundamentalist disciples (see White and Ward), were profoundly mistaken and the publishing and academic empire built upon this failed premise is constructed on thin air. It is logical to conclude that the façade was maintained because the Church would not accept the critical text if the critic acknowledged it could not reconstruct the autographs. White would have us preserve this 150-year-old façade, thus the many deflections of Dr. Van Kleeck’s questions designed to expose the ruse popularized among God’s people by White.
Note that Confessional Bibliology was framed by White as ineffective when dealing with Islam and the Quran, a claim I frankly found quite surprising considering the following quote,
“Muslim scholarly criticism of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament never brought about a corresponding study of the Qur’an. When European biblical criticism was brought to the Muslim East in the nineteenth century, it served only as an additional corroboration of the traditional polemical arguments about the falsification and unreliability of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.” Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, “Some Neglected Aspects of Medieval Muslim Polemics against Christianity,” Harvard Theological Review, 89:1 (1996), 61-84: 66.
White’s attitude toward text criticism, rather than winning the day against the sacred text of Islam instead bolstered Islamic polemics against the sacred text of Christianity. How does White’s uncertain text win the day against the Holy Quran? Can Islamic scholars rightly quote White to make the case for the “falsification and unreliability of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament?” After listening to the debate, the answer must be yes.
Allow me to close with this observation. When the debate began, Dr. Van Kleeck anchored his defense exegetically citing multiple verses of Scripture. Scripture points the reader and listener to Christ, we see ourselves as saved sinners, and in a spirit of doxology we thank God for his grace and mercy. This is the context in which true Spirit-led academic work from the humblest to the most profound is performed. To this beginning, a beginning embraced by all those who hear the voice of the Shepherd, Dr. White took stringent exception.
Verses like Matt. 5:18 particularly and the Bible in general create a crisis of authority for the reader. Who are we to believe? This crisis does not arise between peers but between men and God, a God who can throw both body and soul into Hell. In the tradition of one of my Westminster Hebrew professors, it is not too much to say that concluding men’s opinions are more binding than God’s Word is to places one’s soul in eternal jeopardy. Listening to Jesus, talking with Jesus, walking with Jesus during his earthly ministry was on one level the most human thing a man or woman could do. No one needed special theological training to learn from the Lord. Indeed, Galilean fishermen were members of his school. And it is within this ordinary context, Jesus points to the Hebrew text then available to the Jews and says, “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”