Christmas, providential preservation, and certainty

The interaction of the angel with the shepherds was so engrained in the hearts and minds of the early church that Luke wrote that his record was “most surely believed,” that he had “perfect understanding,” from which Theophilus and subsequent readers might know “the certainty of those things.” If it was not God Himself who preserved the infallible, inspired word, how could the Church ever know with certainty that the events of Acts 2 ever historically transpired, and if the events did not transpire, then the written record of these non-events are spurious. So, let’s say for the moment, we discount the historic orthodox manner these verses have been rendered and consider what might be an empirical defeater to this paradigm for manuscript transmission?

There is no empirical evidence of this event except for the witness of the shepherds. Manuscripts at this point are meaningless. Luke, or someone calling herself “Luke” may have just recorded a happy story that became a wide-spread myth. This event cannot be supported scientifically. Indeed, this announcement can be easily erased simply by arguing that the author’s fabricated account was a local fable that found its way into the real Luke’s gospel. The whole Gospel is not spurious only the conflation that includes Luke 2:1-20. After all, what makes these verses any different that John 7:53-8:11? It’s all just words on parchment. Luke was not in the field with the shepherds, nor was anyone else to corroborate the event. Even if it did happen, how reliable are shepherds to accurately report something of this magnitude. The story sounds like something out of a bottle not of divine significance, kind of like “snake handling” in Mark 16, or maybe like an Aesop fable of wonder and amazement but not an actual inbreaking of heaven to earth.

Before you can argue transmission, you must agree or believe the event being recorded happened. Luke recorded an event of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. Was there a moment in time when the Apostle John wrote 1 John 5:7? Was there a historic event when Christ interacted with the woman caught in adultery? Did Mark write the long ending? How many times did Mark’s heart beat before he completed the Gospel? Because special revelation is grammatical/historical, word and event, if there is no written record, there is no way of knowing whether the historic event happened; if the event is in the text, because it is God’s word, it did happen. The present critical reconstruction of the text reconstructs the past when the unchanging past has already limited the veracity of the record. The past did not manifest itself in two simultaneous, contradictory events. Text critics are not so much students of ancient literature as they are manipulators of time. Call the manipulation what you want, just not truth or the New Testament. Did redemptive history unfold in the Biblical record or did it not? Orwell was correct, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” By critically reshaping the past, the future has been the splintering of the Church with multiple modern bible versions, and it is the present information dominance of the evangelical text critic that continues to reshape the past.

The witness of the shepherds is confirmed by Anna and Simeon, and then by the Wise Men, and then by the Father, Holy Spirit, and John the Baptist at Christ’s baptism, then the ministry of Christ, his death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, the Apostolic message, and the founding of the Church based upon inspired writings. All of this either confirms the witness of the shepherds or we are witnessing a complete 1st century ruse. Indeed, much of the Church is about to reinforce this transgenerational ruse on Christmas Sunday if it is not believed that all the past events of Holy Scripture are forever, unchangeably settled. And the only means of exercising that kind of faith this Christmas is to believe that the Gospel record has been providentially preserved by God and based on the introduction to Luke’s Gospel to have “certainty” of those things through the Word and Spirit.

Merry Christmas!

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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