Thesis 5: The argument to the effect that what the majority of believes in the history of the church have believed is true, is ambiguous at best and theologically dangerous at worst; and as applied to textual criticism, the argument proves nothing very helpful anyway.
I will point the reader to the following passages: The inseparability of the written word and Spirit – John 14:26, John 16:13-14. Also 1 Cor. 2:14-15 – the bond between the Word and Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave us the word and guides our application of the word. Our understanding if Scripture is only correct and complete when the Holy Spirit interprets the word in the Church. The Holy Spirit did not merely give us a book and then leave it to us to figure it out. He continues to be our Teacher. “The Spirit is he Master Theologian, Teacher of the Church.” Kuyper. The three-part dynamic of Spirit/Word/Believer permeates the Scriptures. I give but 4 examples; Isa. 59:21, word, spirit, believer God’s mechanism to bring his redemptive plan to eschatological consummation. Eph. 1:13 – heard the word of truth — word/ye were sealed – believer/with that Holy Spirit of promise/-Holy Spirit. Eze. 36:27 – Spirit, statutes and judgments, God’s Word, within you, the believer. John 16:13 – Spirit of truth, guide you into all truth, God’s Word, he will guide you – the believer
Calvin, reflecting this exegetical and theological truth, comments,
“[But] I reply, that the testimony of the Spirit is superior to all reason. For as God alone is sufficient witness to himself in his own word, so also the word will never gain credit in the hearts of men, till it be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit. It is necessary, therefore, that the same Spirit, who spake by the mouths of the prophets, should penetrate into our hearts, to convince us that they faithfully delivered the oracles which were divinely entrusted to them…; because, till he illuminate their minds, they are perpetually fluctuating amidst a multitude of doubts.” Calvin, Institutes, 1.7.4.
Carson, does himself and the reader a disservice with the inclusion of Thesis 5. Please note, that Carson, like White, says nothing of the role of the Holy Spirit as if to abandon the Church and the text to its own deductions and finally to a handful of textual critics. Carson’s secular approach to the text also looks at the Church as natural, 1 Cor. 2:14, where jot and tittle preservation (Matt. 5:18) is foolishness but omitting the central role of the Spirit at work through the saints and Word.
What Carson calls dangerous, if not obeyed, Tyndale calls idolatry, writing,
“God is not man’s imagination; but that only which he saith of himself. God is nothing but his law and his promises; that is to say, that which he biddeth thee to do, and that which he biddeth thee believe and hope. God is but his word as Christ saith, John viii. “I am that I say unto you;” that is to say, That which I preach am I; my words are spirit and life. God is that only which he testifieth of himself; and to imagine any other thing of God than that, is damnable idolatry.” William Tyndale, “The Obedience of a Christian man,” Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures, edited for the Parker Society (Cambridge: The University Press, 1528, 1848), 156-161.
Yet, this is precisely what Carson strives for; he is fabricating God out of his own imagination. God is what he says about Himself, but Carson has chosen to speak for God. When when speaks for God, creating God from their own imagination, Tyndale calls this usurpation “damnable heresy.”
I hope the reader recognizes the depth of Carson’s errors and the subsequent demonization of pre-critical theological thought all for the sake of hoping to engender trust in a failed and vacuous text critical method and resulting multiple version onlyism. And after 150 years of this textual and subsequent theological recreation, Ligonier reports the following:
“The 2022 State of Theology survey reveals that Americans increasingly reject the divine origin and complete accuracy of the Bible. With no enduring plumb line of absolute truth to conform to, U.S. adults are also increasingly holding to unbiblical worldviews related to human sexuality. In the evangelical sphere, doctrines including the deity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ, as well as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, are increasingly being rejected. While positive trends are present, including evangelicals’ views on abortion and sex outside of marriage, an inconsistent biblical ethic is also evident, with more evangelicals embracing a secular worldview in the areas of homosexuality and gender identity.” https://www.ligonier.org/posts/state-theology-survey-2020-results/
And before someone says, yes but not major doctrine is missing in the recreated text, stop, look around, and ask yourself whether that objection is at al relevant or meaningful. Even if that objection were valid, which it is not, that feckless half measure has still brought the Church and American culture to the spiritual decay we are now experiencing. Saying the Bible is the essentially the same is an entirely different category of assertion than saying the Bible is the infallible word of the living God. The first assertion carries no authority; the second statement asserts there is an Authority to which every man, woman and institution must yield.
And what would you expect when a trusted seminary professor is arguing for a critical method that excludes the Spirit/Church/Word paradigm and leaves the text in an always evolving state. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then Carson has been derelict in his duty to be a watcher on the wall. Instead, by opposing a standard sacred text he has contributed to opening the ecclesiastical gates to the spiritual enemies of the Church.