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What is Standard Sacred Text.com? – Community

“The word catholic was used early on in Christian history to denote that which is believed everywhere: the whole deal. The heart of the word is Greek holos, meaning whole, entire, integral. It is not related to the English whole or heal. The linking idea is that you don’t want only a part, or you don’t want only to be associated with a part. You want the whole thing. And there is only one place to get it.”

ANTHONY ESOLEN, ANGELS BARBARIANS AND NINCOMPOOPS…AND A LOT OF OTHER WORDS YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW, 8-9.

Esolen, being a devout Roman Catholic, most certainly means that “one place” to be the Roman Catholic Church. On this point he has erred in a drinking-out-of-the-wrong-Holy-Grail kind of erred.

Still, he does touch on a central desire all true Christians have – to want the whole of Christian community in unity. The apostle Paul declares as much when he writes that we ought to endeavor “to keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace” [Eph. 4:3]. But the Spirit is never alone. He always accompanies the word of God and the word, the Spirit. As such the writer of Hebrews declares that the word of God is quick [i.e., alive]. Indeed, for many this is the greatest “proof” that Scripture is the word of God.

“Thus, the highest proof of Scripture derives in general from the fact that God in person speaks in it.”

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, vii, 4.

The “whole of Christian community in unity” is an issue of unity in the Spirit and unity in the Spirit entails unity around the word of God. StandardSacredText.com aims to foster this unity around the word of God by offering resources and making arguments for the validity and benefits of having a standard sacred text for the English speaking believing community.

Certainly there will be some disagreement and where there is disagreement about strongly held convictions there can be friction between brothers in Christ. Indeed, that very well may happen. Still, we hope that while we may disagree about the mode of baptism or church governance we can agree that belief in a standard sacred text by the English speaking believing community would be a boon for the Church. Undoubtedly such a journey or process will be a messy one but as you and I consider the goal and benefits of such a conclusion perhaps you too will join in the effort.

Amandus Polanus, 1600, Arguing for the Long Ending of the Lord’s Prayer

“Amandus Polanus (1561-1610) wrote extensively on the doctrine of Scripture against the famed Roman Catholic apologist, Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). His refutation of Bellarmine spanned nearly 800 pages in his Syntagma Theologiae (Hanover, 1610, pp. 95-831). Polanus was a German Reformed theologian who spent much of his academic career teaching in Basel, Switzerland. Historians, such as Richard Muller, have referred to his Syntagma as one of the most important textbooks of theology in Early Reformed Orthodoxy. ” https://www.reformation21.org/blog/amandus-polanus-on-the-churchs-role-in-interpreting-scripture-1

Polanus comments,

“The third part of the Lord’s prayer is a conformation which containeth three arguments, by which our faith is confirmed, that God doth certainly hear our prayers. Two arguments are drawn from the attributes of God, the third from the end of hearing.

The first attribute of God is this: because he is king having rule over all things.

The second, because he is able, who can give us all things which we ask.

The argument from the end is, that he might be glorified for ever, because he is God, and a most bountiful and merciful father.”

Amandus Polanus, The Substance of the Christian Religion, Soundly Set Forth in two books, by definitions and partitions, framed according to the rules of a natural method (London: Arn. Hatfield for Felix Norton, dwelling in Paules Churchyard, at the sign of the Parrot, 1600), 487-88.

The Gauntlet: An Official Call for Discussion and Debate

So it has been one week since the debate with Dr. White. As it currently stands there are almost 22,000 views of the debate so far. Several people have contacted me to say that they watch the debate live and then went back to watch it again and in so doing gleaned further insights into our defense of the Textus Receptus.

This is in part because the defense of the TR is quite broad in explanatory scope and force and a 2.5 hour debate cannot do justice to the material. Those who defend the TR do so with history, manuscript evidence, believing text-critical work, Christian theology, historical theology, philosophical theology, philosophy, epistemology as well as other tools of reason and inference. What is more, we believe it and are passionate about it. And because we are passionate about it we enjoy talking about it to anyone who will listen in nearly any environment from coffee shops to college classrooms.

As such I would like to officially announce that we are available for discussion and debate on the topic of the TR and the KJV. We will accept all invitations with certain caveats.

1.) We are willing to debate anyone so long as they have a terminating post-graduate degree [e.g., a D.Min., Ph.D., Th.M., or equivalent]
2.) If #1 is not fulfilled we would still be willing to have a vigorous, cordial, and moderated discussion of these topics.

We take the difference between a debate and discussion to be in format and aim. The format of a debate is limited in structure according to time parameters and centered on the debate question while a discussion is much freer with the time and can move around as the flow of the discussion dictates. Furthermore, a debate is a kind of competition with the goal of winning via the expression of persuasive truth. A discussion on the other hand is a time of learning and exploration – boldly going where perhaps the audience has never gone before.

Additionally, we are not the only ones willing to engage in debate and discussion. Over the past week several TR/KJV defenders have expressed the desire to debate and discuss topics in defense of the TR and KJV. These people are:

1.) Kent Brandenburg – His work can be found at https://kentbrandenburg.com/. Incidentally, Kent Brandenburg was the “Kent” Chris Arnzen first sought out for last week’s debate, not Kent Hovind. Kent Brandenburg has already had several moderated debates.
2.) Thomas Ross – His work can be found at https://faithsaves.net/thomas-ross/ Thomas has had many moderated debates on topics across the spectrum of Christian theology and apologetics.
3.) Nick Sayers – His work can be found at http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Main_Page Nick has engaged in many online debates with interlocutors of varying academic acumen on various historical and text-critical issues.

Each has their wheelhouse and will defend the TR and KJV from different perspectives with their methodology but they are certainly faithful and available to make their case as they do.

Additionally, the 2022 Kept Pure in All Ages lectures with Dr. Jeff Riddle have recently been uploaded to YouTube. In the first lecture Dr. Riddle deals with certain apologetic considerations revolving around the work of Bart Ehrman. Then in his second lecture Riddle deals with the claims of Christians who are sympathetic to Ehrman’s position though they do not receive it en tota. Persons like Mark Ward fall into this category. Finally, Riddle addresses the Church, the believing community, and certain canned lines used by evangelicals to cast dispersions on the TR. Dr. Riddle’s lectures can be found here:
1.) Reasoning with the Wise and the Scribe
2.) Reasoning with the Disputer of this World
3.) Reasoning with Them That Believe

Blessings.

The Proclivities of James White (Part 2)

Two days ago I began laying out the proclivities of James White while in a debate setting with fellow Christians. In that post I offered 15 and in this post I will offer an additional 15. Again, the purpose of sharing this list of JW proclivities is to help prepare any other Christian who would seek to debate JW on this topic. Of course it is possible that he would change his tactics so late in the rhetorical game, but that probability seems low to me.

But before addressing that list I wanted to say a word about my chosen debate method. Having read many of the responses to the debate I found that both sides of the debate really really wanted me to address certain of the data behind JW’s Erasmus claims as to get into the nitty-gritty evidence for this or that reading. Let me give a little insight into my approach.

First, in the 5th century BC Chinese military tactician, Sun Tzu, wrote down his tactics in a book we now call The Art of War. In this book he declares that when you go to battle you must dwell in impenetrable darkness. That is, it is of utmost importance that your opponent not know where you or when you will attack. As a result I purposefully employed arguments that I had not yet written or expressed so as to dwell in impenetrable darkness. This is also why the vast majority of posts on this blog during that time was not my own material. I wanted to give no hint of my approach.

Second, Sun Tzu further says that if you desire to prevail in every conflict you must know yourself and your enemy. I offered new arguments in an attempt to show that JW did not know his enemy. If JW knew my arguments well enough he should have been able to address my arguments on debate night. He was not able, and therefore did not know my argument well enough and the first step was achieved. As a result, he did not prevail.

Third, Sun Tzu goes on to say that when you strike you must do so with speed and ferocity of a thunderbolt. In order to do this, it was necessary that I never let off the gas – always be on the offensive. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If you must strike a king, be sure it is a death blow.” I considered JW a king and that the debate was in the midst of the king’s court. As one FB comment put it, “The gloves were off.” And I believe appropriately so.

Fourth, in a successful attack one must choose the ground, the place upon which his attack should be launched. As a result I clearly and distinctly told the crowd and JW that the debate was not about subjective interpretations of evidence and that JW’s robust but narrow historical argument would not do. I reframed the discussion in theological and philosophical terms on purpose. I was choosing the place where the fight was going to take place and I had the right to do so seeing that it was my responsibility to offer the positive argument.

As a result, we did not get to JW’s foibles regarding Erasmus or the evidence regarding Revelation 16:5. That would have been predictable thus negating points 1 and 3 above. It would have also meant that JW got to pick the place upon which the fight was going to take place and thus negated point 4. To borrow a phrase, “Everyone has a plan until the rhetoric starts flying.” In my case I believe I was able to stick to my time, place, and angle of attack even when the rhetoric started flying.

I hope this helps people understand why I chose the topic and method in the way I did.

Now to the proclivities of JW. Let me first point out that in knowing his proclivities I knew my “enemy” and that in knowing my “enemy” it was going to be very difficult for JW to dwell in impenetrable darkness and therefore very difficult to attack with the speed and ferocity of a thunderbolt. This is why I declared his arguments to be tire, old, and dead because he ignores these basic features of rhetorical conflict. Second, seeing that I ended at 15 proclivities in my last post I am going to pick up with 16 today.

16.) JW regularly attempts to establish ethos [i.e., credibility] by appealing to his debates with Ehrman and at a South African mosque. Ethos is difficult to attack without attacking the person [ad hominem]. Still the fact is that if there is a mosque in your town you could call them up today, tell them you are a Christian, and ask to meet with the Imam and they would meet with you. This has been my experience wherever I have lived. In the end, debating Muslims and Atheists on their turf is eminently available to all of us, it’s just that JW has done it.

17.) JW regularly attempts to establish ethos by appealing to the number of moderated debates he has had. Though he has had many moderated battles, his establishment of ethos doesn’t seem to indicate how many times he was mortally wounded or died in those battles. As such, this play to ethos falls flat. In short, JW never admits to losing.

18.) JW derides our textual positions because we don’t see textual tinkering as progress. When asked why his tinkering matters, he attempted to redefine “tinkering”. earlier, when speaking to a crowd of lay-people he made no attempt at such a redefinition. JW tinkers out of both sides of his mouth. Out of one side he wants us to believe the text is settled and all we are doing is tinkering and out of the other side of his mouth he wants us to believe that tinkering is meaningful enough to continue modern textual reconstruction.

19.) Our position doesn’t doubt our Bible enough. If I doubted a small part of my TR then Dr. White would not have as much of a problem with my position. If I claimed that the TR AND the NA 28 (including the apparatus) were equally God’s word we probably wouldn’t have debated. In short, JW is only fine with my position if I include a measure of doubt which he deems appropriate. If too much doubt, he calls me Bart Ehrman. If too little doubt he calls me KJVO. In short, JW main and bare thesis is “Pete, you don’t accurately doubt your Bible like I do.”

20.) Certain manuscript evidence is an undefeated defeater for JW. Apparently it must be for us too otherwise we are to feel the wrath of JW.

21.) JW regularly declares the Bible to be merely reliable/adequate and yet offers no exegesis. He calls himself a Biblicist when talking about the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas but when talking about manuscript evidence he has no exegesis to defend the Bible as merely adequate.

22.) JW regularly presents a merely historical argument with a little bit of providential preservation garnish on the side. Here I charged JW with naturalism because the vast majority of his argument could be argued by a godless, Christless atheist. There is nothing distinctly Christian about his argument even after he calls himself a Presuppositionalist.

23.) JW regularly quotes Scripture in order to make his audience doubt it. Every Scripture he brought up he did so in order to show that it was worthy of doubt to some measure. Matthew 5:18 doesn’t mean jot and tittle. Revelation 16:5 which reading is it? “In” the temple or “out” of the temple. JW rarely if ever employs Scripture to defend Scripture.

24.) JW only emphasizes the res [meaning] and ignores the verbum [the actual inspired words] of the Scriptural words. Furthermore, he does so based on no other authority than his own doubt concerning certain text of Scripture. We must doubt like JW doubts or else.

25.) JW seems wholly unaware of the meta-didactics of Scripture. The Scripture teaches by simply existing because it is the sui generis sacred words of the living God in time and space. Scripture equals God’s word and God’s word equals a product of divine special revelation. If a product of divine special revelation is mixed with the product of fallen human ingenuity then Scripture by simply existing teaches us that God’s word as a product of divine special revelation is mixed with the product of fallen human ingenuity. This is an indefensible theological position if one desires to remain orthodox.

26.) I have heard JW on several occasions accuse brothers of putting to much stock in the Reformation like they were Reformation worshippers. The irony though is that he makes this claim while claiming to be a Reformed Baptist. He has taken the name of the thing he think people put too much stock in. It’s like a woman who takes the name of her husband only to then turn around and tell others that her husband isn’t as great as you think he is. The irony is so obvious JW’s accusation of “Reformation worshiper” is ridiculous – a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

27.) JW has said on many occasions, even in our debate, something to the effect, “I want to know the words of the Apostles.” This is an affective plea or an emotional plea and he states it in such a way as to make it seem his opponent doesn’t want the same thing. We all want to know the words of the Apostles as well as the words of Luke who was not an Apostle. The question is, How do we get there?

28.) In the sphere of philosophy I have observed that JW learns his opponent’s position while in the midst of the debate. I observed this when JW discussed Molinism with William Lane Craig as well as in JW’s treatments of Aquinas and Reformed Epistemology. This is yet another reason why I leaned toward some semblance of a probability argument. I had a strong hunch that JW simply would not understand and that he would be learning right there in the moment and therefore not be able to properly respond to my arguments. My hunch paid off.

29.) JW has no paradigm for the preservation of God’s words among the manuscript tradition AND what the Bible calls us to believe, that God has preserved His words between two covers. He only ascribes to the former. This is an enormous hole in his Bibliology which he does not seek to mend. He merely puts the “reliable” or “adequate” Band-Aid over the wound and hopes things don’t get worse.

30.) Finally, JW seems incapable of offering a robust defense for showing one’s arguments AND knowing one’s arguments. JW does not seem to realize that people can know the truth but are unable to show/explain that truth in a way that is convincing. As a result, he treats those people as wrong when in fact those people very well may be right; they just don’t know how to explain it. Of course this is not always the case, but JW doesn’t seem to even have a category for such a thing.

To be honest, I was so sure of JW’s proclivities that I began to construct a Bingo card that had 25 of these 30 proclivities represented on it. Then as he continued in his rhetorical rut I was going to declare “BINGO!” each time I got 5 in a row. Of course I didn’t but I could have been a winner in more than one way had I done so.

We Are Not Alone

A couple of days ago I received this link from a graduate student in Singapore letting me know that the work we are doing here with the TR and KJV is also being done on the other side of the world. They too are engaged in substantive discussions with those who hold their views in contempt. They too at times feel alone or outnumbered. Still, we share the same confidence in the Bible which God has given to us.

Below I have included the post which can be found on the website of True Life Bible Presbyterian Church in Singapore. I hope it can be an encouragement as you consider the scope of the work being done here and around the world in defense of the TR and the Authorized Version.

Persevere my dear brothers.

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“I am alone!” That was what Elijah said after he defeated the prophets of Baal, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kgs 19:14). God had to tell him that he was not alone, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (1 Kgs 19:18). Commenting on this episode, Paul said that there is always a faithful remnant, and we say likewise, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant” (Rom 11:5).

When we fought the good fight of faith for the Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) of the Holy Scriptures about two decades ago, we were told by our opponents and detractors that we were alone on this, that nobody believed this. They said our belief in VPP was “foolish faith”, that VPP is a “new doctrine” and “heresy”, and that we are going to be “the laughing stock” of the world.

By the grace of God, we held firm to the truth of VPP as taught in Psalm 12:6–7, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever”, Matthew 5:18, “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”, Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away”, and many other verses and passages in Scripture. We believe without doubt that God has indeed preserved every jot and tittle of His inspired words as He promised, and that we have His very words and every word in our hands. Where then are they? They are in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures (ie the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus) on which the Authorised Version (AV) or King James Version (KJV) is based.

We may feel we are alone, but we are not. When I wrote to Dr Edward F Hills in 1997 (not knowing that he had already been called home in 1981) for permission to use parts of his book—King James Version Defended—for my lecture notes on VPP, his wife—Mrs Marjorie Hills—so graciously replied, “It is indeed very encouraging to learn that a Presbyterian College is a strong supporter of the KJV. The King James Version Defended, will furnish your students with the facts they will need for its defense.” It was interesting for me to note that she was encouraged by a Presbyterian College taking a stand for the KJV. I suspect Dr Hills who was Presbyterian fought a lonely battle in his day.

In the last century, the Bible Baptists and the Independent Baptists were the ones at the forefront defending the KJV. In those days, we really did not hear of any Reformed or Presbyterian ministers, churches or schools defending the same except for a very few. Dr Hills was perhaps the lone voice. We were also a lone voice in the wilderness of ignorance and unbelief here in Singapore when we earnestly contended for VPP some 20 years ago. But the Lord knows we were not alone; there were others who did not bow their knees to the Baal of modernistic and rationalistic textual criticism, who also upheld the good old Text and the good old Version.

More and more of the faithful remnant are now coming to the fore to speak up for the divinely inspired and preserved Text. They are promoting and defending the inspired and preserved words of God biblically, theologically, and historically. One such faithful scholar is Garnet Howard Milne who authored Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture published in 2017. Dr Milne was absolutely right to observe that the preservation of the Scriptures “cannot be construed to mean that God has kept his Word pure in some as yet undiscovered place, and the church must carry on with an imperfect Bible in a seemingly endless hope that one day all the textual critics (most of whom are modernists who reject any notion of biblical inerrancy) will all agree on the identity of the autographic text.”

Dr Milne was also spot on to observe that “The canon was not something decided upon by the elite of the church and then commended to the ordinary folk in the pews. It was something confirmed and received individually throughout the centuries ever since God had first dictated those Scriptures for the church, a church which consisted of the whole multitude of believers. This means that the common or received Greek text of the New Testament and the Masoretic text of the Old were considered by [the Reformers] to have been the authentic text.” Indeed, this is in keeping with what Jesus said, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:4,5,27). The divinely inspired words of Scripture can only be spiritually discerned and recognised by Spirit-filled believers. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:12–14).

By the grace of God, there is now a growing movement for the “Confessional Text” (also known as the “Traditional Text”, “Received Text”, “Ecclesiastical Text”, “Reformation Text”, “Canonical Text”, “Standard Sacred Text”). This movement, in primarily Reformed circles, is calling all Sola Scriptura believers who regard the Bible to be the sole and supreme authority of their faith and practice to return “to the Bibliology of the men of the Reformation and post-Reformation (Protestant orthodox) eras. Those godly men maintained that the Lord had not only immediately inspired the Scriptures in the original Hebrew and Greek, but that he had also kept them pure in all ages (cf. WCF and LBCF, 1.8). This led them to affirm the classic Protestant printed editions of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament as the standard text of the Christian Bible.”

Dr Jeffrey Riddle and Rev Christian McShaffrey—the leaders of the Confessional Text movement—have compiled and edited an anthology of essays penned by “Pastors, Teachers, Elders, and one Deacon, coming from Reformed, Presbyterian, and Baptist traditions. These men hail from places across the English-speaking world, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” The anthology is published with the title, Why I Preach from the Received Text (USA: The Greater Heritage Christian Publishing, 2022). It is the hope of Riddle and McShaffrey “that each reader’s confidence in the integrity of Scripture will be increased as he moves through the pages of this book. We particularly desire that those ministers and their congregations who have stood fast in their use of the traditional text, even when it seemed they had few allies and many adversaries, will be encouraged by this work, knowing that they do not stand alone and that this position is neither unreasonable nor obscurantist. It is also our hope that a new generation of young believers and young men called to ministry might be prompted by this work to give careful consideration regarding the text of the Bible they choose to embrace.”

I was given the privilege to preview this book before it was released, and I must say I am encouraged by the testimonies of the 25 presbyters and church leaders who have the faith and conviction to preach and teach from the absolutely authentic and authoritative texts of the Holy Scriptures that God had inspired in the beginning and has preserved from the beginning. Ministers of the Gospel today can preach with confidence—“Thus saith the LORD,” “It is written”—when they preach from the traditional Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus on which the AV or KJV and other faithful and accurate translations of the Bible are based.

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Trust me, I’m a Text Critic

We at Standard Sacred Text do not see historic, orthodox, theological precommitments as a liability to a sound defense of the Faith and Scripture. Indeed, consistent Christianity demands the Lordship of Christ through the Word and Spirit in every part of life, including research and writing. Dr. White’s presentation reminds us that there are Christian scholars that do see a problem with their Christian precommitments and assure others, for the sake of perceived credibility, that they don’t let their Christian faith get in the way of their academic work. But Theology is unlike any other discipline in that it is the study of the wholly other, self-revealed, God. Scripture is His Word. True theology, then, must only say what God has already said about Himself, and not what others say He said. Putting or taking words in or out of God’s mouth is a failure of submission to the King. The spiritual resistance of restricting the kingdom rule of Christ in their lives from influencing any text critical work or apologetics is now integral to the credibility of modern, so-called “Christian” scholarship. Without being pejorative, scholarship cannot be called Christian if not Christocentric.

Of all the disciplines one might choose to apply this secular model, for White and others, it was the theological principium of the Christian Faith, or the special principle and source of Christianity, the Holy Scripture. They could have decided to manufacture microchips like the unregenerate do, or fly airliners like the unregenerate do, or write computer code like the unregenerate do, but instead decided to recreate the principium cognescendi of the Christian Faith like the unregenerate do, relegating what is uniquely transcendent, the written Word of God, to a transcendentless method. Since the 19th c. this God-less methodology has been standard fare in academia. As one of my Westminster profs relayed in class, once the notion of truth becomes so muddled, historically, it takes a 1,000-years to find realignment. Of course, those creating the muddle believe everything is fine. Dr. Ward disparages the KJV and Dr. White the TR, neither man suggesting corresponding standard, authoritative replacements, and yet we are to conclude that the confusion they are creating in the Church is fine, should be welcomed and endorsed, and rather than our culture’s present slip backward to a second Middle Ages, (when the priests could not read the Latin), is rather producing a new Renaissance (another Erasmus) on the way to a new Reformation (another Tyndale). Scripture is clear, that when God is turned aside, personal, and national calamity awaits, the data Dr. Van Kleeck cited in his closing remarks.

Dr. White serves as a single data point for members of the Church who have finally been convinced by academics, and now say, “We will not believe the Holy Scripture, until we see the manuscript evidence for it.” While preserved manuscripts have always been essential to the preservation of Christianity, the immutable fact, beyond dispute, is that the Original writings of Scripture are forever beyond the scope of scientific discovery, forever lost. Recent critical scholarship accepts this and has moved on to the “initial” text existing several centuries later having given up looking for the Originals. With the undiscoverability of the original words of Scripture, where is the empirical grounding for faith, if the Word of God in the autographs is forever lost? What will Dr. White show the Church to convince them it is grounds for faith. Right now, many are taking his word for something that neither he nor anyone else can ever produce.

The Scripture says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Is this the viva vox Dei, “the living voice of God” to you, or must you see the manuscript evidence that no one knows or will ever know, empirically, is indeed the words of the Original? The Scriptures have always been a target for corruption leading one to ask “how could anyone know what was and was not God’s word?” Considering the insurmountable empirical obstacles to preserving the words of God in a sin cursed world, the providential preservation of God’s word is intrinsic to the words themselves. It seems clear that White likes neat categories that can be classified, categorized, and easily referenced and finds the Divine algorithm of providential preservation throughout history too messy. Yes, history is very messy. There are no external criteria to determine what is or is not God’s Word. Scripture is self-attesting, self-authenticating, and self-interpreting, possessing authority over all other criteria and authorities because it is the Word of God. The existence of the preserved words of God is therefore, empirically, unquantifiable. With support from categories such as Apostolicity, antiquity, and ecclesiastical usage, this theological/critical model produced the TR and KJV.

Without historic Christian precommitments the identification and collation of the written words of God is impossible. The dynamic interaction of the Word, Spirit, and Covenant keeper through the Church — faithful saint, dedicated pastor, erudite scholar, and skilled linguist – performed this unquantifiable labor. Within this believing context, the Bible was read as the viva vox Dei, “the living voice of God” to them. The result of this Isa. 59:21 dynamic is Greek Received Text and the King James Bible.

“Trust me, I’ll recreate your Bible solely from manuscript evidence,” the text critic says. “But you have been doing this work since the 19th c. How much closer are you to the Original writings?” you inquire, to which the critic replies, “I don’t know. I’ve never seen the Original writings.” “Well, if that’s the case, how do I know if any of your work so far is valid?” you ask, to which the critic replies, “Trust me, I’m recreating your Bible solely from manuscript evidence.”

The Proclivities of James White (Part 1)

In studying Dr. White’s method and approach to fellow Christians regarding the Text and Translation debate coupled with the advice of others who knew Dr. White’s teaching quite well I was able to identify 30 or so proclivities which Dr. White regularly employed.

I share these with you first and foremost as a help to those who may debate Dr. White in the future. He seems quite stuck in his ways and so his method and content is also stuck. If you are aware of what he is apt to do, then you will be aware of his angles of attack. Lord willing I’ll share half today and then the other half tomorrow.

In the context of the Text and Translation debate with Christians Dr. White regularly does the following:

1.) He claims we have more manuscript evidence than ever before. This of course in an inscrutable claim. There is no way he can know the evidence count in all places of ecclesiastical importance at all times of church history and yet he will assert this claim with considerable but unfounded confidence.

2.) Knowing what the Originals originally said is a matter of evidence. Given #1 this claim is also unfounded because the totality of evidence available is only a fraction of the total amount of evidence which the Church had over the centuries. Simply put, the vast majority of manuscript evidence has perished. We only have a small fraction of that vast majority. Furthermore, from a merely evidential perspective we do not have the Originals and according to Dan Wallace we wouldn’t know we had the Originals even if we did have them.

3.) Those who assume a theological grounding for determining what is Scripture have no method. This is patently false. We do have a method and it includes evidences, particularly Background, Prior, AND Posterior evidence. Our method is first and foremost the Spirit/word/faith paradigm or the Spirit of God speaking through the words of God to the people of God who then receive God’s words by faith.

4.) Those who assume a theological grounding for determining what is Scripture believe the evidence is irrelevant. This is also patently false. We believe the evidence has much relevance in apologetics, history, archeology, linguistics etc., but it is has almost no authority to determine what is and is not a word of God.

5.) Those who assume a theological grounding for determining what is Scripture are a-historical because they can’t account for pre-TR eras. We do account for pre-TR eras through a distinction between preservation of the words of God in general, Christian belief in history, and the preservation of the words of God between two covers.

6.) TR advocates are basically or functionally KJV only. This of course is an emotional play to get the audience to feel poorly about our position. It’s emotional manipulation at its best. A reasonable analysis of our position would show the conflation of Confessional Bibliology with KJV Onlyism to be unwarranted.

7.) TR advocates cannot do apologetics. This of course is a silly claim. Simply take a look at the Protestant Scholastics who regularly did apologetics against the Roman Catholic apologists of their day and in fact were victorious. This claim is practically and historically false. What is more, it seems that Dr. White is nearly identical with that of Dr. Ehrman though they each conclude differently. It is hard to claim you do apologetics when you agree with your interlocutor on everything except the conclusion.

8.) Dr. White is prone to offer the same old stale dead arguments. This makes him very predictable. Never underestimate your debate opponent but in this case the probability that Dr. White is going to make the same lame arguments he has for years is very high.

9.) Dr. White regularly pulls the “Have you ever done textual criticism” line in order to attack his interlocutor’s ethos or credibility in discussing these topics. In the end this is the same dumb tactic used by abortion advocates who claim that unless you have a uterus you can’t have an authoritative position on abortion.

10.) Dr. White is apt to say, “Most scholars believe X”. This is called the Bandwagon Fallacy. Simply because most scholars believe X doesn’t make X right or true. Most of the Pre-Civil War South believed slavery was good but that didn’t make slavery right. Most of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day rejected Jesus but that doesn’t excuse their murder of Christ or make their position any more right or true.

11.) Dr. White regularly compares his Christian interlocutors to Muslims or Mormons. This is again an act of emotion manipulation like in #6. What is more Muslims believe that God is one, that Jesus existed, that God is merciful and on and on. Does that mean that Dr. White should compare himself to Muslims when debating Muslims on issues of the oneness of God, Jesus’ existence, and divine mercy?

12.) Dr. White regularly accuses his Christian interlocutors of committing category errors. I am convinced Dr. White uses this term when he doesn’t understand something or needs more intellectual space to think about a solution. He certainly does not know what it means or how to use it. In the debate I compared inspiration of the Canon and inspiration of words and the preservation of God’s people with the preservation of God’s words. I was accused of a category error. A category error is often something quite stark as in “How many megahertz is Sunday?” or “How far is it from blue to D-flat?” If the category error is not stark it is the responsibility of the one claiming a category error to demonstrate that it is a category error. In short, to successfully accuse someone of making a category error it takes a lot more work than simply saying, “Category Error!”

13.) Dr. White has recently liked to stray into philosophical waters. This has been a bad experience for him. It didn’t go well for him when talking with William Lane Craig about Molinism. It didn’t go well for him and Masters Seminary a couple weekends ago. It doesn’t go well with his use of category error. It doesn’t go well when he critiques Dolezol or Thomas Aquinas or the Great Tradition or Platonism or Bayes’ Theorem or Reformed Epistemology or Warrant or Basic Belief. This will always be a source of embarrassment for him though he may not realize it.

14.) Our argument is not rational because it is not primarily discursive and evidential. Here Dr. White seems to think that all apologetically meaningful data must be discursive and evidential in nature. Plantinga has proven this to be false and even Bart Ehrman in his debate with Dr. White affirms that faith is a reliable means of knowledge.

15.) Dr. White regularly conflates textual reliability with historical reliability. Modern textual scholars have finally wised up and concluded that it is a logical fallacy to conclude regarding manuscripts that “a larger number and an earlier date necessarily equate to more reliability.” [Myths and Mistakes, Chap. 3 Kindle Edition]

I hope these can be a help to you all. Lord willing I’ll do the other 15 tomorrow.

What is the Role of the Holy Spirit in Dr. White’s Apologetic?

John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote his Institutes (1559) in the early orthodox period (1565-1640) of the Protestant Reformation. His work was taken up by the great apologist William Whitaker (1548-1595) in A Disputation of Holy Scripture Against the papists especially Bellarmine and Stapleton (1588). According to Wayne Spear, Whitaker was quoted more frequently than any other theologian by the Westminster Divines in the formulation of the 1647 Westminster Confession. The transmission and preservation of Calvin’s theology throughout the Reformation demonstrates the enduring truth of his early writings. Calvin’s genius in the theological grounding of the Protestant Reformation cannot be overstated, and intellectual honesty demands the recognition of this theological grounding in current applications. Calvin writes,

“[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.

Using this quote as a framework, it is suggested that the answers to the following issues Calvin raises would provide just the theological grounding that White is missing. The strength of White’s position is solely negative — disparaging the TR. Everything else is uncertain and fluid. This post is meant to help provide Dr. White with a positive theological apologetic centered on the merits of White’s own position. Based on the Calvin quote, then,

  1. How is the testimony of the Spirit superior to all reason according to White’s position?
  2. How is God a sufficient witness to himself in his own word according to White’s position?
  3. How is this witness confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit according to White’s position?
  4. Why is it necessary for the Spirit to convince us that the prophets faithfully delivered the words divinely entrusted to them according to White’s position?
  5. Why is the Spirit’s illumination the solution to minds that are perpetually fluctuating amidst a multitude of doubts according to White’s position?
  6. Based on these answers, then, in summary, “How is the Holy Spirit inseparable from the White’s position on Scripture?”

I’m sure, as you listen to the debate, you will find the answers to these questions enlightening. If you answer, Dr. White never refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in his apologetic and strongly disagrees with those who do, you would be right. For this reason and others, White’s presentation at the debate can fittingly be called secular.

Blessings!

Brief Observations on the Authority of Scripture Debate with Dr. White

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.”

James White Tries Damage Control with More Birdie Arguments

I was planning on sharing some of my debate notes with you all today and specifically 31 proclivities which JW seems to manifest when talking about the Text and Version debate. But instead, it seems that JW went back to his rabbit hole [i.e., the Dividing Line] yesterday where he and his birdie arguments are safe and accepted in order to try a second attempt at a rebuttal.

I have to say, that what he said in his rabbit whole was a better attempt at a rebuttal than what he produced on debate night. This of course is the problem. If it takes JW two days to formulate some semblance of a cogent rebuttal then perhaps debating isn’t really his thing. What is more, apparently he needs to wait for a time when he is not being challenged to formulate said response. It seems he needs a safe space to do his best work.

Still, after listening to his response you will find that it is equally weak and uninformed though it is on topic which he failed to do during the debate. So let’s take a look at what he had to say in the aftermath of the debate.

1.) [32:14] “The venue did a really really great job with setting up the debate.” Listen, I get that most in attendance were JW fans and so it behooves JW to pat his friends on the back. That makes sense, but it is probably best that he keep things above board even though they are his friends. Let me explain.

First, when I was approached I was asked to defend Confessional Bibliology and I accepted the challenge based on that premise. Then several days later I was asked to defend the TR by the organizer of the debate. I resisted because I believed that while the TR is definitely a huge part of the Confessional Bibliology position it is not Confessional Bibliology. I explained to JW and the promoter that the TR is the conclusion of Confessional Bibliology and that there is a raft of theology and philosophy which undergirds our conclusion that the TR is the word of God. I wanted to talk about those undergirding theological and philosophical considerations. I proposed a different question which was not liked because it did not contain TR in the topic. In fact is was first rejected by the promoter who had no skin in the game, he was not debating and yet he was the final say on what we were going to debate. It got so hot at one point that I was told by the promoter to either accept a debate topic with TR in the topic or they were going to find someone else. I thought about it for a day, and then accepted. Folks, the people who determine what is going to be debated are the debaters but not this time. I had to either bow to their demands or lose my spot. At this point I had listened to quite a bit of JW and I thought his position to be stale enough that I could accept their terms and still win.

Second, I was ask by the promoter if I would be able to cover my own costs to travel, lodge, and eat because he was not sure he could find a single church in the whole area what would house me because they disagreed with my position. [I have the emails, so if anyone wants to bark about me lying or exaggerating I’ll post the emails for all to see.] Apparently this is how you set up a great debate at least according to JW.

Third, if it was such a well orchestrated debate how is it that the debate topic was misread from the go – a topic that neither debater agreed to?

Fourth, if it was such an well orchestrated debate how do you account for the moderator asking me a question which favored JW’s position right after JW’s time for cross ran out? That doesn’t seem to be a well set up debate.

Fifth, it if was such a well orchestrated debate how do you account for the moderator allowing JW to respond with “Asked and Answer” more times than he actually answered questions?

2.) [34:39] JW quotes “Squirrel” saying that my argument was the worst word salad he had ever heard outside of politics.

Oooo…such a burn. So substantive. So meaningful. JW really go to the point of my argument. Brilliant.

3.) [35:25] There are very few people who have heard of the “Van Kleeck Hypothesis”.

First, I’d like to thank JW for the moniker but in the end what I argued is mere Pre-Critical Bibliology and the fact that JW has never heard these things before is sad and it tells me that his grasp of Reformation Era Bibliology is somewhere in the range of zero. As such the whole of it seems foreign to him.

4.) [36:09] Endless guilt by association fallacies. He compares my work to Gale Riplinger without explaining why. He merely asserts it and of course his listeners join him in the rabbit whole and fail to ask, but why JW? JW around the same time says that my work Then He Poked the Bear makes Bart Ehrman look like a Fundamentalist. Again JW simply asserts this and offers no explanation which he is apt to do in debate and not in debate apparently. Even after two days to think about the debate JW still can’t escape fallacious reasoning.

5.) [36;42] “Plantinga never applied this because he knows it is an obvious category error.”

I laughed out loud at this. JW regularly is out of his depth in philosophy and Plantinga is a philosopher. JW performance with William Lane Craig is a perfect case in point. JW seemed utterly ignorant of truth-makers, their role in truth-making, as well Truth-Maker Maximalism and explanatory priority.

But let’s take a look at what Plantinga actually says rather than listening to JW who has apparently never read Warranted Christian Belief by Plantinga. Plantinga writes, “On the present model [i.e., Aquinas/Calvin Model], therefore, faith is a bit narrower than in the account of true faith from the Heidelberg Catechism …which includes a ‘conviction that everything God reveals in his word is true.'” [p.248] In the debate I think I said Helvetic Confession. I should have said Heidelberg Catechism.

No offense to JW but his claim about category errors is ignorant. Never once did he demonstrate that my saying the Canon is inspired is like saying “Strawberries taste blue” – a true category error. JW thinks that by simply saying “category error” that his problem is solved, but for anyone with a small measure of philosophical training knows that such a claim hurts JW more than he knows. Furthermore, his claim that Plantinga did not address Scripture in his Aquinas/Calvin Model is doubly ignorant, but we’ll forgive him and try to help him along as the Lord gives him ears to hear.

6.) [37:46] JW says that I accused JW himself of being old, crusty, and almost dead. No no no…I accused his arguments of being old, crusty, and actually dead. This tells you how close JW’s arguments are associated with his person. To assault JW’s arguments is to assault JW.

7.) [38:10] “When you say belief in the Bible everyone can tell…” This a bandwagon fallacy that is also unsubstantiated which is a double-stuffed fallacy of reasoning. One, even if everyone could tell that doesn’t make it right or true. Two, JW has again failed to demonstrate his claims. I am convinced JW simply asserts things, those who love him accept that as true, therefore JW doesn’t need to defend his beliefs. This of course leads to a bloodless effete series of arguments which cannot stand a real test. And that is what we saw last Saturday evening.

8.) [39:36] Here we get the Guilt by Association fallacy where JW when in a Christian audience is apt to compare his Christian opponents to false religious groups. By doing this he lumps his Christian opponent into a group that the audience does not regard favorably. As a result he plays on the audiences’ emotions but offers no meaningful critique. He simply makes unsubstantiated statements, Christians agree, and JW’s interlocutor is now the equivalent of a Muslim or Mormon. Such behavior is a prime example of rhetorical manipulation. Seeing JW has had so many debates you would think he wouldn’t make such elementary mistakes, but alas he regularly does.

9.) [42:30] “Conflating belief in the Trinity and belief in a textual readings is not the same kind of belief.” Again JW simply asserts and makes no meaningful attempt to explain his assertion. What is more, it has been two days since the debate and he still got my arguments wrong. Belief in the Trinity and belief that a given word of God is actually from God both require the Spirit of God to speak through the word of God to the people of God. In this sense, belief in the Trinity and belief that a given word in Scripture is from God are arrived at in the very same way.

10.) [43:40] “I always chuckle when young men declare themselves the winner.” Thank you for considering me a young man. I declared myself the winner for three reaons: One, the moderator wasn’t going to declare a winner. Two, there were no judges in the back of the room keeping score on a debate score card so there was not going to be a declaration from there. Three, JW didn’t even address my arguments. He simply swept them aside via an unsupported bare assertion and then went on to talk about whatever he wanted to talk about. As such, all of my arguments stood which means I win.

11.) [44:09] “TR advocates were saying that I didn’t answer any of his questions. I didn’t refute any of his arguments. That’s because his arguments were absurd.” He again we see JW in his natural habitat – declaring things, not supporting them, assuming they are true, and then moving on to his next bare unsupported assertion. Even two days later he is unprepared to answer my arguments. One can only laugh at this point.

12.) [44:12] “Then a Baysian analysis of the probability that the TR is the Autograph” He gives such a lame definition of Bayes’ Theorem and then says that the probability that Revelation 16:5 is Scripture is low using Bayes’ Theorem. Again, I laughed out loud. I mean I’m no mathematician but to say that Revelation 16:5 is Scripture is extremely low is for JW to fully demonstrate he does not understand Bayes’ Theorem and how it works. With Posterior Historical Evidence and Background Evidence alone Revelation 16:5 has at least a 50% chance of being equal to the Autographs because God can do anything and the belief that God to anything is included in the Background Evidence. Not only is JW laughably wrong he doesn’t have an internal mechanism to tell him when to stop or when he is so far out of his depth.

13.) [45:18] “TR onlyism is functionally no different the KJV Onlyism” Again, Guilt by Association fallacy. At this point we can add boring to old, stale, dead arguments brought to you by JW. Then JW says Mark Ward is right on this point. Oh my…we have two peas in a pod now. JW regularly commits the Guild by Association fallacy and so does Mark Ward with his ridiculous “absolutism” moniker. But hey, birds of a feather rhetorically flock together I suppose.

14.) [45:30] “TR onlyism is circular” Assuming we take “TR onlyism” in a charitable way, if we are talking about first principles, which we are, then circularity is a feature not a bug. The Bible is the principium cognoscendi or the first principle of theological knowledge. First principles necessarily employ circularity. Again, here is an example of JW lack of historical, theological, and philosophical knowledge. Why he hasn’t learned these things seeing he claims to have a doctors degree is unclear, but it is clear he hasn’t learned them.

All in all, it took two days for JW to conjure some semblance of a response only to utterly fail again and seeing it was all done in his rabbit whole it’s kind of like JW played himself. What is more, given that JW method seems to be something like assert unsubstantiated claims, refuse to explain those claims, and then move on; JW’s critique has no more explanatory force and scope than it did on Saturday.

My Initial Takeaways from the Van Kleeck vs White Debate

First, I’d like to thank all those who helped me prepare for this debate. I had an email chain going with 6 other men who really understood James White’s [JW] proclivities. Their advice proved prescient. Then there were those of you who watched/read JW’s material and shared your own insights. Thank you.

As for the debate, at some point we are going to have to get into the nitty-gritty but today’s post is simply some initial observations.

Regarding JW, yes his white beard is as epic as you would expect. He was smaller in stature than I had originally thought, but the thing that caught me most by surprise was his handshake. After watching/listening to over 1500 minutes of JW’s material and witnessing JW’s extreme confidence I was expecting to shake the hand of a mountain man, but instead to my unpleasant surprise his hand was small and his grip had almost no strength. There is nothing necessarily wrong with having a weak handshake, it’s just that it caught me off guard in a visceral/tactile way. With the confidence he so easily exudes I was fully expecting him to offer a meaty break-your-hand-off kind of handshake, but quite the opposite happened.

I was surprised by the moderator asking me a question though it made some sense seeing that the moderator was the pastor of the church so instead of showing bias toward JW he may have simply been too comfortable on his Church’s platform at that moment.

JW’s insistence in dodging my questions was at first frustrating because I was told JW was a scholar with vast debate experience and he could barely answer my first five questions. At that point I recognized JW was poser or a faux scholar or a pretender. At which point I found it funny kind of like that painting of dogs playing poker – the art of absurdity. It was simply absurd in a funny kind of way that an experienced debater and purported scholar seemed incapable of answering simple questions especially seeing he had been asked some of them before.

After JW got done with his opening statement my confidence shot up. He literally did not prepare to debate me. He used a tired warmed over PowerPoint presentation with its typos and even the silly joke about who made the slides. The sad part was that JW failed us all.

It was my job to present a robust positive argument in defense of the debate topic. The burden of proof rests with me in giving a positive case. JW’s job is equally burdensome but in a different way. First, he must know my argument so well that no matter what I offer in my opening statement he is prepared to offer a rebuttal. In the end though, JW did not know my arguments even after he said that he read my work.

As a result, JW did not so much as lay a scratch on any of the three arguments I offered in my opening statement let alone offer an undefeated defeater. He did nothing with my “Autographic Terms” argument, he challenged my Reformation argument but that never returned after my rebuttal, and he never even attempted to touch my probability argument.

He had one job, defeat my positive arguments offered in my opening statement. He didn’t. He failed. That’s an “F” and he let us all down – me and the audience. He let the audience down because it wasn’t a debate. It was me offering a positive case and JW saying whatever he wanted with a healthy dose of dodging-the-question on top. He let me down because he offered nothing to assist me in sharpening my own arguments. As such, I won. I won because I offered a positive case, which was my job to do, and he no where provided an undefeated defeater against that positive case.

For my part, this was my first moderated debate. I felt myself going way too fast. I think I had way too much material in nearly every aspect of the debate except for perhaps the cross-examination periods though I still had an entire line of questioning remaining. I certainly could have been more winsome and maybe a little less business. On several occasions JW tried to drag me into his evidentialist/naturalistic paradigm as the sole arbiter for what counts as a true reading for Scripture. I recognized and resisted that trap and for it some thought I was dodging the question. So I had two choices, abandon the Spirit/word/faith paradigm and follow JW’s evidentialism OR stick to my guns and be accused of dodging. It seemed to me that the former was the worst of the choices.

In the end I gave JW the benefit of the doubt that he was some great apologetic warrior, but as it turns out he has plenty of dark clouds and wind but not a whole lot of rain at least on the topic of Texts and Versions.