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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Textual Argument

Examining the Arguments for King James Onlyism [pt. 4]

I wish to continue in my series examining what I believe are six key arguments utilized by King James onlyists so as to defend their belief that the King James translation is alone the Word of God. These 6 arguments are not exhaustive, but represent a summary of key unquestioned and unaffirmable KJV only presuppositions used for the defense of their position.

With this post, I come to the third key argument, the textual argument. King James onlyists believe the King James translation is derived from the best manuscript evidence of the original biblical languages. Some will go so far as to say the original Hebrew and the original Greek language texts used by the King James translators represented the exact duplicates of the original prophetic oracles of the Old Testament for example, as well as the original apostolic epistles from the New Testament. So, in other words, when the KJV translators were translating Isaiah, they were looking at what was really a photographic copy of Isaiah'’s original collection of prophecies. When they were translating the book of 1 John, it was if the Apostle John just wrote it the day before.

The King James onlyists further claim we can trace God's direct, providential hand guiding the transmission of the biblical texts down through history. God'’s providential direction is clearly evident in the language texts used by the KJV translators.

I will take up this idea of textual, providential guidance in a later post, but with this one, I thought it would be helpful to present a quick overview of textual criticism because it is so misunderstood by the vast majority of Christians, as well as maligned by KJV onlyists.

To begin, we need to pause and consider the value of our printed Bibles. Christians in our modern world fail to realize how recent printing has come on the scene and appreciate how it transformed our world. Up until about 1450, when Gutenberg invented his printing press, all published material was hand written. Any sizable document took a while to hand copy, and if there were a need for many copies of the same document, depending on the available human copiers, it would take some time to duplicate them. Printing revolutionized how we communicated with one another, something that was heavily exploited by the Reformers during the Reformation.

In a similar fashion, we see an information revolution happening over the last 10 years with the emergence of the Internet and email. Ten years ago, I didn't have email. If I wished to write a friend in Arkansas from California, I had to take the time to write out the letter (or type it), put it in an envelope, and mail it. My letter would probably take 3-4 days to make it to Arkansas. My friend would then have to take the time to respond to me, mail his letter, which again would take 3-4 days to return to me. Depending upon how quickly our letters got turned around there was maybe an 8 to 10 day period of me sending a letter and waiting for a reply.

Now, with email, my letter is in my friend'’s email box with in five minutes. If there happens to be a glitch in the system, my message might be delayed a day. Even more remarkable is how I can email a friend around the world in the same amount of time.

As email is to letter writing, so printing was to publishing. It took the transmission of information to a new level never before considered. When Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door, by the next day, there were a multitude of printed copies. To have hand written them would have taken several days or more.

The original biblical texts were hand written - painstakingly copied by a variety of different people in different areas of the world with varying degrees of abilities. These hand written texts are called manuscripts. Thus, when people speak of manuscripts, they have in mind hand written documents.

With the Bible, what a manuscript will look like depends upon four elements:

Materials -- What the manuscript is written on. Papyrus is paper made from processed reeds. It is easily the cheapest material in production of a manuscript. Parchment, on the other hand, is made of leather from some sort of animal. It is more time consuming to make, plus it is pricey, because animals were not cheap in the ancient world. Only important documents were reserved for parchment.

Form -- What the manuscript looks like. The manuscript could be either in a scroll form: pieces sown together to make a roll. Generally, parchment was used for scrolls. Or, the manuscript could be in codex form: bound together like a book.

Completeness -- How much of the manuscript is available to study. It could be in fragments, or what is a small portion of a text. It could also be partial, a small portion of a chapter, or maybe a page from a manuscript. It could also be a whole, complete document, all the way to being an entire OT or NT.

Style -- How the manuscript was written. The manuscript could be written in uncial style, or all capital letters. Or in minuscules, small letters. Also, the text could be arranged in columns or be a single running text.

With the NT alone, we have nearly 5,500 pieces of manuscript evidence either entire, partial, or in small portions. That does not include the lectionary citations, what would be early worship books, Church father citations, and the multitude of early translations of scripture. Put together, experts believe the NT has 20 thousand plus pieces of manuscript evidence attesting to the veracity of the NT documents. The textual evidence for the NT dwarfs any other book or document in ancient history.

Keeping all of this evidence in mind, there is a fundamental question we need to answer: With all of these tangible pieces of manuscript evidence, how do we boil it all down to produce a working apparatus used for translating a Bible?

This is where textual criticism comes into action. The idea of a textual critic has a negative connotation attached to it because people mistakenly believe a critic is criticizing the Bible and casting doubt upon God'’s Word. This is hardly the case. A critic is someone who evaluates the quality of a produced work of some sort. There are movie critics, art critics, and drama critics as well as critics of other literary documents. For example, there are critics surrounding the publication of Jonathan Edwards's handwritten sermon manuscripts.

Though we know our modern day critics will make critical remarks against a movie for instance, their job is to evaluate the quality of the film, not just talk bad about it. In the same way, textual critics of the NT evaluate the quality of all the available manuscript evidence so as to determine what the original autographs said. They deal with the four areas I highlighted: materials, forms, completeness and style.

The role of a critic is imperative because we are dealing with hand written documents, and hand written documents copied over and over for a long period of time will contain variants. What exactly is a variant? It is any reading of a particular verse or passage that will vary between two or more manuscripts of the same verse or passage. For instance, perhaps a passage in a group of manuscripts will read, The Lord Jesus Christ, where as in another group of manuscripts we find in the same passage the words, Jesus Christ. The words the and Lord are added to the first group, but absent from the second.

What is the cause of these variants? There could be a multitude of causes. The most common is human error when copying; anything from fatigue causing mistakes, sloppy penmanship, not paying attention when copying, etc. There are also intentional variants, like harmonizing two similar sounding passages, particularly between the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Whatever the case, a trained textual critic can evaluate the value of these variants, sort through them and draw some reasonable conclusions as to which one represents the original writing of the prophet or apostle. For example, one of the most reasonable conclusions when evaluating variants is to take the oldest reading. A copy of the book of Luke that dates to just 200 years after Christ is more than likely going to reflect the original book of Luke, than a copy of Luke that is dated a 1,000 years after Christ. Why is that? Because the book dated a 1,000 years after Christ is more likely to have gathered more and more variants as it is representative of a copy that is the end product of a vast amount of copying over a millennium of time. The manuscript just 200 years removed from Christ has not been around a long enough time to pick up copying errors.

Despite how well tuned textual criticism has become over the years after the Reformation when Christians became interested in determining the original text, KJV onlyists cast a dark shadow of suspicion over the helpful role it has played in sharpening our understanding of the biblical documents. They do this in a couple of ways:

They will exaggerate the significance of the variants, implying that God'’s Word becomes lost among all of them. They claim in their literature that the manuscripts utilized by modern versions are different in THOUSANDS of places, suggesting that any modern version is an entirely different Bible altogether, as if it is like comparing the story of Jesus from The Book of Mormon with the historical Jesus of the NT documents.

Also, KJV onlyists will claim that many of these variants are a result of heretical men intentionally altering the Bible so as to promote their heresy. For example, KJV onlyists imply that heretical individuals would slightly alter the biblical text to water down Christ'’s Deity, or make Him appear to be a created being. In fact, pretty much all KJV literature has a section providing extensive verse comparisons between the KJV, which is suppose to be translated from the pure, providentially guided texts, and a variety of modern versions, which are suppose to be translated from a text that reflects these heretical alterations. The problem, as we will see, is there is no evidence of such heretical corruption. It just doesn't exist. If anything, orthodox Christians leaned toward altering the text so it will reflect orthodoxy more clearly. I will take up the separate question of whether or not heretics have corrupted our Bibles in a later post. I also direct readers to a Q and A I wrote on my website addressing heretical corruption of the Bible.

In closing, I believe it is important for Christians to have a correct understanding of textual criticism. It is not a boogey man that is to be feared, but is an essential process in maintaining the integrity of our Bible. The next time I will take up the transmission of the OT documents and the NT documents, and consider the KJV view of providential preservation.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

A Whirl Wind Weekend

Right on schedule, little Noah Caedmon was born on Thanksgiving day. If I knew how to up load pictures on the computer from a cell phone camera, I would show you all what he looks like.

The entire event reminded me of a sitcom episode. Around 10:30 am on Thursday, my wife comes into the bed room where I was studying and announces, "It's time." Thankfully, I kept my wits about me and didn't drive off to the hospital in my underwear and without my wife. Once we arrived, she was quickly examined and it was determined that she was not ready. The doctor told us to come back in the evening.

My mother rushed together our Thanksgiving day meal and it was so rushed she forgot to make stuffing. All the time my wife was experiencing the on set of early labor. She would take a bite of turkey, then pause for a contraction, take another bite, pause for a contraction.

Finally, we went to the hospital by 6 pm and by 10:22, little Noah was born. His name comes from Noah, the biblical figure from Genesis, and Caedmon, the 9th century Anglo-Saxon shepherd who did early translations of the Latin Vulgate into English.

He had a touch of jaundice, a lot less than his brothers, but the doctor wanted him to stay in the hospital. My wife of course has to stay with him, but we are thankful that the nursing staff have made her prolonged stay comfortable. Our doctor is a tad eccentric. He is an older, Indian man who holds to a lot of out dated methods. For example, the scale in his office to weigh children looks like it came from the 17th century. He puts the baby on one side and then adds counter weights to get it to balance. I kid you not.

When our baby was seen to have jaundice, he told my wife to stop breast feeding altogether and only give him formula from now on. That of course sounded weird to us, because both the older boys had serious jaundice, and we were instructed to only breast feed them. When we mentioned this odd request to our nurses, they would roll their eyes and say, "He believes this out dated idea that the breast milk can increase the jaundice." What?! They also use to believe illness was caused by an imbalance of bodily humors caused by a troll living in your tummy. We may be looking for another baby doctor soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Before I leave for the weekend holiday

There is a lot going on this weekend in the Butler household for which to be thankful.
First is the impending birth of the 3rd Butler addition, Noah Caedmon. He is still stuck inside his mother and is refusing to budge. His official due date is Thanksgiving day, however, I kind of hope he is born on Friday, for that is my birthday. It would be neat to share the date with one of the boys.



Having my birthday in mind reminds me to scan through Cap'n Wacky's gallery of unfortunate Birthday cards.

Allow me to share some of my favorites:




















Why Creationists are Treated Like Red-headed Step Children by Christians [pt. 3]

In the last two posts (here and here) I have been exploring the reasons why young earth creationists [YEC] are disdained, slimed, ridiculed, mocked and treated as the proverbial red-headed stepchild by the vast majority of those in the Christian community.

Young earth creationists are those individuals who believe the historical narrative of Genesis teaches that God created the world and all that is contained therein during 6 days as we understand the word day. In other words, in 6, 24 hour days, God created the earth, the plants, the sun, moon and stars, animals and man in a week's time. They are called young earth creationists because they use the Genesis narrative as the starting point of all existence here on earth, and by calculating the genealogical lists provided in scripture, the Bible clearly indicates that the world, humanity, society, and culture has only been around for about 6,000 years - this figure being greatly opposed to the consensus of secular science of 4.2 billion.

So why exactly are YEC disparaged by their beliefs by the majority of Christians in the contemporary Christian church? That is the question I have been exploring. I noted last time that I believe there are three key reasons, the first of which is that the majority of Christians opposed to YEC hold to the philosophy of evidentialism pertaining to apologetics and evangelism. There are two final reasons I have noted:

Young earth detractors have a disdain for American fundamental Christianity and are ashamed of the public behavior often displayed by fundamentalist Christians in America during the last century. My intention is not to paint all fundamentalists as being kooky. I would consider myself to be an historic fundamentalist, and I will wear that title with pride. However, I understand historic fundamentalism, what I believe to be the historic Christian faith, to be separated from fundamentalism as a political movement in American culture. Way back in June of this year I wrote of this distinction in a series of articles critiquing the values of a group of liberals who believe the values of fundamentalism are an aberration departing from the historic Christian faith. Such a notion is woefully misinformed. Yet, I do not want to excuse American fundamentalism of presenting a Christian faith to the world that appears foolish and irrational. I cringe when I hear Christian believers make ignorant comments against something non-Christian. Once during a Christmas get together with some family, one of my cousins expressed his dislike for creationism. In his limited worldview, he thought of creationists as being small minded and anti-intellectual, similar to Hugh Ross's feelings even though my cousin was coming from a non-Christian point of view. I didn't get in on the entire conversation, but how does his grandmother, my aunt, respond to his evolutionary convictions? By saying "no grandchild of mine is going to believe in that evolution junk." What compelling argumentation.

Because YEC are fundamental in belief, they are identified with the narrow minded mentality of uneducated, hayseed fundamentalism that only reacts emotionally, and swings widely at its opponents. The contemporary Christian community does not wish to be perceived by the world as supporting these attitudes, so they will express embarrassment over what creationists believe and teach and basically do their best to distance themselves from them.

Then finally, YEC are dismissed and ignored because many in the Christian community desire the secular world to accept Christianity as reasonable. Naturalistic evolution has so brain washed the world into believing billions of years of history has passed on the earth, that the idea of a world only 6,000 years old and dinosaurs living along side men is too outrageous and fanciful. Who could believe such ridiculous nonsense? Can you believe that YEC quack thinks dinosaurs and men lived together? How can I take Christianity as being reasonable if I have to believe in such stupid things? Thus, in order to make Christianity more palatable, believers marginalize YEC by holding them at arms length and categorize them as a camp of eccentrics.

Last year I exchanged some emails with a Ross supporter who appealed to this line of reasoning as why he rejected YEC. In his mind, young earth proponents jeopardize the gospel by believing in such unbelievable stuff that cuts against known science. His claim is of course fraudulent, but it is an appeal straight from the Hugh Ross handbook, none the less. I had to remind him that Christianity is founded on one unimaginable, unbelievable reality: the resurrection of Christ. The truth of the matter is that any scientist who rejects Christianity because of what YEC teaches with regards to the age of the earth, etc., is also going to reject Christianity because of the resurrection. In the unbelieving scientist skeptic's mind, a man raising from the dead just after three days is as incredible as believing the world is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs lived with men. In order to make Christianity reasonable to the skeptical world, a person will have to remove all the miracles of the Lord. To take that approach just to save face with the secular world only endangers one's faith.

Those are the three key reasons why I think Christians reject young earth creationism. None of them have any merit, but still Christians will sadly think along those lines and not consider the viability of what creationists teach. Of course, that goes back to what we consider is our authority. Is it the Bible, or man-made ideas brought to bear upon the Bible?

I am currently re-teaching a lecture series on progressive creationism and old earth arguments leveled against young earth arguments. It can be listened to here for those interested.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why Creationists are Treated Like Red-headed Step Children by Christians [pt 2]

As I noted previously, there are many in the contemporary Christian church who willfully oppose the work of young earth creationists (YEC). Despite how well researched and argued they may be, they are met with a scornful disdain that seems to be hopeful they will fail in their scientific pursuits. Hugh Ross and the men who comprise his ministry team at his Reasons to Believe organization fall into this category.

However, apart from them, there are other Christians who oppose YEC but are perhaps not as hostile. Generally, their opposition to YEC is born out of being misinformed. They operate from a position of ignorance. Some of these misinformed folks, not knowing any better, may feed their ignorance with anti-YEC apologetic propaganda generated by the willfully hostile group. Yet, for the most part, the ignorant group remains ignorant of both positions. The don't read any literature, especially from the YEC position and any information they may get is surface level at best.

I encountered some of these folks over on the Stand to Reason blog. Stand to Reason is the ministry of Greg Koukl, and for the greater part, I consider them to be one of the more outstanding apologetic ministries around today. The one area where they terribly fail is with their misrepresentation of what YEC believe and teach.

I listen with regularity to Greg Koukl's STR radio program through the internet. He presents a Bible Answer man style program in which he takes caller questions, but Greg does it with much more depth and insight. Every once in a while, however, a caller will ask Greg about YEC vs. OEC, how to read the creation week in Genesis, and other related creationist topics, and to my sad disappointment, Greg will label their position as being "incredible" meaning unbelievable, or he will parrot some of the comments made by Hugh Ross against YEC. Stand to Reason is a ministry that prides itself in being "good ambassadors" for the Christian faith, and one of the important ways of being a good ambassador is by accurately representing the position of the ones with whom you disagree. I have yet to read or hear STR do this with YEC. What I do see is the erection of a strawman caricature and then the dismantling of that strawman as if it genuinely represents young earth believers.

Greg is friendly with Ross and his Reasons to Believe ministry, so I can understand how he can be biased towards them against YEC. But I think he is an example of a larger, misinformed group of believers who don't have a clue about YEC. This general cluelessness was demonstrated clearly by several of the folks who posted comments on a blog entry addressing whether or not we can trust our senses. Melinda, the regular poster on the STR blog, was making reference to a caller from a previous Sunday broadcast who questioned whether or not we can trust our senses so as to gather knowledge about our world. The caller came from a skeptical, "we can't really no if we exist, let alone if there is a God," point of view, but Melinda took the call and used it as an illustration against the claims of YEC.

I thought her comparison was irrelevant, if not illogical, and posted a comment suggesting for her to actually read what YEC believe. Other posters who represent the ignorant, misinformed group against YEC also made comments questioning our understanding of the word "day" in Genesis 1, raised the old canard about how the ancient Hebrews believed in a geocentric cosmology, and other such nonsense.

My interaction with these dear folks began to stir my thinking. Why exactly do Christians so easily gravitate toward a non-YEC position to embrace an old earth position, what I believe to be a theological untenable and scientifically problematic view point? I think there are at least three key reasons. Let me deal with the first one with this post and hit the other two in a later one.

These Christians adhere to an evidentialist philosophy in their approach to apologetics and evangelism. Evidentialism is an approach to defending the Christian faith in which the Christian apologist appeals to the reasonableness of evidence when presenting the gospel. For example, the evidentialist when evangelizing an unbeliever will point to evidence for defending the reliability of the Bible. Such things as the internal consistency of the scripture, even though it has been written by 40 different authors over a 1,400 year time frame, and the fact that it is the most attested ancient document known to man. These evidences when presented to the unbeliever forces him or her to evaluate the reasonableness of the Christian truth claims. If the evidence demonstrates that the Bible could possibly be the Word of God, then the Bible's claims about Christ could be possibly true and hence the Christian faith is established by reason. Only an unreasonable, illogical person would reject such undeniable evidence.

The problem with this line of reason, to borrow the term, is that evidence must be interpreted. There are no neutral facts floating around in the world that "speak for themselves" as we would say, so that everyone would come to the same conclusions about them. Even though the evidence may be undeniable, the Bible is quite clear that the unbeliever is opposed to truth (Romans 1:18 ff.). Moreover, unbelievers have their "understanding darkened" as Ephesians 4:18 states, so they don't reason properly to begin with. Thus, they explain away the evidence because they don't want it to be true. The issue with the unbeliever is not one of evidence, but one of the heart. They are in need of a spiritual heart operation and that is a work only God can do.

Also, evidentialists hold to an improper view of General Revelation (GR). The Bible implies there are two forms of God's revelation to man. First, general revelation is God revealing Himself in nature through His creation (Psalm 19, for instance), but special revelation(SR) is God revealing Himself to His redeemed more specifically. All men know God through GR, but GR cannot show the way to salvation. If anything, GR merely declares God is and holds man accountable in judgment. Only SR can show the means of salvation and that is only contained in scripture.

Evidentialists tend to believe GR is self defining in terms of its scope and authority apart from SR. In other words, GR is an authority in and of itself, and moreover, it has sufficient authority to inform and correct SR. Thus, where GR is believed to be telling us one thing about creation, say the world is billions of years old, well then GR can inform and correct our understanding of SR where it appears to conflict with the GR. A young earth belief is considered incredible, as Greg Koukl asserts, because geologists, who are believed to be dealing with self defining absolutes like the age of rocks, tells us the world is really old. Thus, the only reasonable conclusion is that the Bible must be re-interpreted to fit the alleged absolute and undeniable conclusions of the geologists.

Again, any and all evidence is interpreted, and secular geologists regularly work from a presupposition opposed to the scripture, so all the so-called evidence will be interpreted to stand against the Bible. Furthermore, science is not infallible and what is considered self defining absolutes for understanding our world many times get overturned by later findings. Only the Bible is infallible because it is tied to the character of our infallible God. Our understanding of General revelation, then, should be conformed to the text of scripture (special revelation) not the other way around.

I'll conclude this discussion next time.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Young Earth Biblical Creationism: The Red-Headed Step Child of Contemporary Christianity

More and more I am becoming annoyed with Christian thinkers who marginalize biblical creationists who teach a young earth cosmology, i.e., the world was created in 6 ordinary, 24 hour days as Genesis 1 and 2 teach, and is no more than 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Biblical creationists are either ignored outright by the Christian community, or dismissed as cranks from out among the lunatic fringe.

I wanted to spend a couple of posts exploring why that is. Why are young earth, biblical creationists (YEC) treated like the proverbial red-headed step child by the contemporary Christian Church? Let me begin with the second group who willfully dismiss YEC as ignorant cranks.

A recent example of this attitude come from old earth, progressive creationist champion, Hugh Ross. He of course makes it his job to criticize YEC so there really is nothing new to report. However, in an interview with a Florida newspaper, he proclaimed that 6 day creationists are "anti-intellectual" and "terrified of science." Anti-intellectual and terrified of science? Perhaps he was misquoted or the reporter interviewing him took the liberty to put those words in his mouth, but the descriptions of YEC as being "anti-intellectual" and "terrified of science" does reflect Ross's perspective that they are a bunch of red-neck, "bybul thumpin" hill-billies who think science is of the devil. I find that to be an amazing comment coming from a person who excels at milking personal persecution to the fullest by constantly complaining of being called names and slandered by mean hearted YEC detractors.

But this willful dismissal of YEC by labeling the group as anti-intellectual really only serves to embarrass Ross and others from his camp. The simple fact of the matter is that their slur against YEC is entirely baseless.

This past Saturday, I attended a creation symposium where I sat through an hour long film presenting the final, published conclusions of ICR's RATE project. RATE stands for Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth. The purpose statement from ICR's website describes the project:

One of the most significant challenges to young-earth creationism is the perception that radioisotope dating methods have established that the earth and universe are billions of years old. A group of young-earth researchers called RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) have banded together to investigate the basis of these claims and offer an alternative young-earth explanation. It is believed by the RATE group that processes other than radioactive decay over long periods of time may better explain the presence of secondary decay products.

Dr. Stephen Boyd, who was a team member and did a statistical analysis of the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 to determine the genre, also spoke about his part he played in the project. He listed 6 major, pioneering objectives from the overall RATE project:

1. Applying all four radioisotophic dating methods to the same rock unit. There are 4 radioisotophic methods utilized by geologists when dating rock. Normally, only one or two are applied to the same rock unit. The date that conflicts with the geologist's presuppositions about "age" are dismissed. In RATE, all 4 methods were applied and the result was a rock dated with a huge varying margin. One method would say the rock was 800 millions years old, while another method would say the same rock was 2.3 billion years old. There is something seriously wrong with such a wide margin. If the rock is a specific age, all 4 methods should have come to roughly the same conclusion.

2. An exhaustive study of polonium radiohalos in granite. Polonium is a by product of uranium decay. The tell-tale halos it leaves in the granite crystals should not be presence, but it is, indicating a much younger rock.

3. Development of an alternative geochronometer from previously ignored bi-product of radioactive decay, helium, by measuring leak rate as a function of temperature. Rocks that are billions of years old should have no helium in them. All the rocks tested did. Hence, the radioisotophic methods are not accurate.

4. Applying C-14 to dating diamonds. This had never been done before because geologists believe no diamond would contain it - the diamond is too old for there to be any C-14 present. Diamonds tested by RATE all contained C-14. A discovery that even shocked the university labs testing for it.

5. Development of a new nuclear decay models to account for accelerated decay.

6. The development of a statistical tool to classify the genre of biblical Hebrew. In this case, the creation account of Genesis 1, and it was established with out doubt to be historic narrative, not myth or poetry.

These 6 areas developed by RATE is enough to demonstrate that Ross and other old earth proponents are wrong to classify YEC as anti-intellectual and afraid of science. Sadly, though, the RATE project will be willfully dismissed by Ross and his supporters as not worth considering. That tells me such contempt goes beyond just being misinformed about YEC, but comes from an attitude of self imposed bigotry.


more to come.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Did Anyone Catch the Overt Christological Reference in the New Superman Trailer?

I just finished catching the new teaser trailer for the Superman Returns movie to be released Summer 2006. First off, what is with the title? Superman Returns? Did he leave for a trip? From the look of the trailer, I see it as a total remake starting from the beginning, so isn't the title already misinforming? Wouldn't a better title for this remake be Superman Begins, similar to the Batman Begins from last Summer?

The story link seems to suggest that Superman has returned after a long absence. Does this new Superman movie pick up where the Chris Reeve films ended? I can understand why Superman would want to leave after that disastrous 4th sequel. Remember how the wires on the flying mechanism of Superman's rival, Nuclear Man, were visible everytime he was on screen? And I never cared for Margot Kidder as Lois Lane. Even in the first film, she had this haggard, "I'm an old lush" look about her.

Anyhow, in the new teaser trailer, a narrator, who I am guessing is Superman's father, tells about how he is different from all the other people of Earth, because he is from another world. The narration is underscored by the original John William's Superman theme and it builds up to the final shot of the trailer which is Superman hovering above the Earth at the edge of space. It is the words at this point that caught my attention. The narrator says something (I am paraphrasing here): There is good in these people; that is why I am sending them my only son. I thought, "Hmmm, where have I heard that before?" A guy who is not like the rest of the people, has great powers and abilities, and is an only son sent from another world.

I am only curious if Saddleback Community Church, in conjunction with Fuller Seminary, will put out a study guide to help aide the discussions in small group Bible studies as to the Christian imagery found in the movie. Can't wait to see.

Friday, November 11, 2005

So You're A Calvinist?

How do you react to cancer?

Guess what? I have cancer. I just found out this week. I was sort of surprised by that news seeing that Butler men fall victim to strokes and heart attacks.

I have had this small lump in my neck for years and years and years. I would imagine maybe 20 years or more; since being a pre-teen. We would routinely ask doctors about it when I was getting my check ups. Everyone of them would ask the regular questions: Has it changed? No. Has it gotten bigger? No. Does it hurt? No. Everyone of them would always conclude that it was a cyst of some sorts. If it doesn't change or hurt, don't worry about it.

When I got married, my wife was obviously concerned about a lump in my neck. I would repeat to her what every doctor had told me since being a child. She was skeptical and pestered me to have looked at. Again, I asked my doctor what he thought and he again asked the same, regular questions all my previous doctors asked. His conclusion: Its a cyst. If it doesn't hurt or change size, don't worry about it.

This year I switched to a doctor that was nearer to where I lived. A few months ago I go in for a chest cold and a terrible cough. He pokes and prods and writes up a prescription for some medicine and then asks, "Is there any thing else you have a question about?" I just blurted out, "Well, I have this lump in my neck, what are your thoughts?" I gave him the background and he concluded... You guessed it, a cyst. However, this time I told him that recently, when I am sick with head colds or a sore throat, the lump is tender. "That's typical," he stated, "because it's probably next to a gland that is fighting your infection." "But, if it is bothering you, there is no harm in having it removed," and he writes up an order for me to see a specialist.

The Ears, Nose and Throat guy basically told me that it could be one of two things: either a cyst (what everyone had been telling me) or a tumor in my parotid gland (what makes your spit). He sets me up for my first ever MRI and my first ever biopsy.

This past Tuesday, his assistant nurse calls to tell me to come to his office immediately. "Did he say exactly what is up?" "No, just to have you come down today or tomorrow." So, the wife and I go to his office, he comes in, closes the door and tells me, "You have an acinic cell carcinoma. (mine is not nearly as bad as the one in the picture)

me: an acidic cell what?
doctor
: an acinic cell carcinoma.

me
: a what cell carcinoma?

doctor
: an acinic cell carcinoma.

me
: is that a bad thing?


Well, yes and no. Yes, if it is my lymph glands, but no in that it is quickly treatable by removing it. The one draw back is that there is a facial nerve near it and if the tumor is around the nerve, there is a slight chance they may have to cut the nerve, which means half my face will have a Droopy Dog appearance. I am not too excited about that bit of news.

My wife and I are taking this all in stride and are not the least bit worried. What we have found disconcerting, however, is how our friends react upon hearing the news. Everyone we tell becomes somber, straightfaced, and dour, and with a hushed tone ask, "So... How are you doing?" My wife has told several of her girlfriends about my plight and they respond by saying "he is so young; and you have a baby on the way." People, its a little, treatable bump in my neck. I am not lingering in the final stages of leukemia here.

Because my wife and I are optimistic, it is as though our friends are annoyed with us for not being more worried or something. I am deeply appreciative of everyone's concern, but as a Christian, how am I suppose to react? Am I not to have a spirit filled, biblical reaction to all this? Are people expecting me to become weepy when I tell my story and ask for prayer?

These last couple of days have sharpened my thinking to reflect upon how Christians should react to bad news. What we typically know as trials. It is these trials God uses to put running shoes on our theology. Sadly, I believe a good many Christians these days react poorly. It breaks my heart to see Christians fall under a trial only to react by curling up in a fetal ball and rocking gently back and forth on a bed in a darkened room.

I think this adverse reaction is due in part to the easy lifestyles we have come to love and expect here in America. Our worldly culture promotes youth, vitality and a carefree life, and if you are not youthful, athletic with toned legs and a six pack tummy, and enjoying a vigorous fulfilling sex life, then you have a second rate existence as a person.

Couple this secular view of life with the notions promoted in some evangelical Churches of a Christian faith being all hearts and flowers and fun and there is stewing a disasterous mixture of wrong expectations and muddle headed theology that results in a negative reaction to faith challenging circumstances.

I wish to maintain a high view of God's goodness during these times. Consider the detrimental cascading effect that will happen if a trial occurs and yet I respond by falling to the ground in a heap.

First, such a reaction impacts my testimony among my Christian friends. I am telling them during the good times that I trust solely in God's sovereignty and grace. I teach these truths regularly from a pulpit and I even dutifully remind my friends to trust the Lord's sovereignty when they are struggling through trials. Now, am I only a fair weather Christian? Do I only pay lip service to the Bible where it tells me of God's goodness? Or, am I to trust His sovereignty in my life through the difficult, uncertain times? How does a negative reaction reflect upon my testimony and the weaker brother's confidence in the Lord?

Also, what about my evangelistic endeavors. In other words, if I have neighbors or family who are lost, they know I am a Christian. I have mentioned the goodness of God to these folks in the past. They listen quietly in the background of how I trust His sovereignty. I may have even told them at one time or another that they too can trust God. However, if I am having a nervous break down over a trial, how can I rightly maintain my platform of evangelism? If I am not trusting the Lord as a believer, how can I with certainty call them to trust God with their salvation?

Have I forgotten what the Bible teaches about dying and death? I hate to have to remind folks of this fact, but every single person on the planet has a terminal illness. Either the doctor will give you 3 months to live, or maybe 40 years, but the stark reality remains, all men will die. As Hebrews 9:27 states, And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment and Psalm 89:48 is even more emphatic, What man can live and not see death, can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Yes, I understand from a human perspective the grief of loosing a loved one in the young years of his or her life, but living another 40 years is only prolonging the inevitable. Of course I want to see my boys grow up, get married, and Lord willing, and He hasn't allowed the Islamic hordes to take over the world, I want to see grandchildren. But I never want the eternal to become out of focus. This life is but a vapor. I want to be mindful of that truth so as to redeem the time I have been granted.

A life of painless, non-suffering is not guaranteed by the Lord
. I find it amazing how there are some Christians who become upset with God if they happen to have tragedy ruin their expectation about life. A catastrophic accident may occur or perhaps a serious debilitating medical condition and God is viewed as a meanie who has abandoned them or doesn't love them or something of that sort. But where has God promised this personal utopian lifestyle? He hasn't. What God has promised is that His grace will be sufficient. I in no way wish to minimalize or dismiss a person's suffering. I recognize that it is very real and wearisome. But that does not mean we put away a biblical perspective and stop walking in the spirit.

Then lastly, I have hope. I don't think my cancer is serious in that it will spread and claim my life in 9 months. Obviously, there is a far, far remote chance. (I could also be killed in an accident). But even so, my wife and I have hope. Our trust is in the Lord, the second Adam who has conquered death and has granted me eternal life. I could not imagine struggling through any major, life threatening illness as an atheist. What terrible despair. Having to fake happiness and optimism to basically face being absorbed into nothingness or just going out of existence.

In a way, I am even some what embarrassed to mention all this, because my situation is so minor compared to at least two other individuals I know who are really struggling with cancer. One couple in particular, who were once members of my Church, are preparing for the death of the wife who is slowly succumbing to a cancer that has affected her spine. She has been given a short time to live and compounding that bad news, the cancer has taken away her motor skills and she is confined to a wheel chair. I do not know these folks. My only contact is with mutual acquaintances, but I marvel at the up-dates I receive, because I believe they are a family who are reacting in a God pleasing way. May I have their courage when if I have to put running shoes on my theology.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

From the Calvinism Hater Files

11/9 Greetings to all you Calvinist Gadfly readers, and thanks Alan for the plug.

David Cloud is a typical KJV only, classic dispensationalist, antinomian, Arminian Fundamental Baptist. He toils under the delusion that he has some sort of reputable apologetic, end-times ministry guarding the Christian Church. He regularly posts articles under the section of his website entitled, The Daily Article Listings. Generally, Mr. Cloud has to re-publish his posted articles because the information he is alerting his readers about is out-of-date and filled with blunderous errors of fact.

A good example of this is a daily article listing from September 2004 in which he criticized Steve Camp for his call to reform Contemporary Christian music. Aside from his ridiculous criticisms of Steve and his ministry, Mr. Cloud consistently cites out of date information about Steve. The most amusing is his biographical background to Steve where Mr. Cloud states he is a member of John MacArthur's Grace Community Church. The fact of the matter is that Steve was once a member of Grace from 1998-1999 and by the time Mr. Cloud published his criticisms of him, Steve had been living in Nashville for nearly four years.

Why I did this, I don't know, but I took the time one afternoon to write Mr. Cloud and correct his error about Steve's Church membership. I pointed out that many of his Daily Articles are rank with these sort of errors and that he would do his ministry good if he would take the time to do better research on those subjects he is posting about. All I got in return was a dismissive "thank you, but I know what I am doing you amateur punk" style email.

What has Mr. Cloud posted this time? Well, in his November 3rd posting, Mr. Cloud warns his readers of some major false doctrine facing the Church. He lists 14 major heresies meddling the Church in these end times. Basically, it is the typical cult heresies like the denial of Christ's deity, the rejection of the Trinity, Pentecostal errors and so forth. But scroll down to number 12 and guess which false teaching Mr. Cloud has named? Why it is none other than Calvinism. Bahaaaaaa. You can just see the blood dripping from the point of the v.

Cloud writes:

12. The false teaching that God chooses who will be saved and that only those who are chosen can be saved (Calvinism)

Bible Answer:

a. The Bible says that God wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-5; 2 Pet. 3:9).

b. Jesus died for the sins of all men, not just some who are pre-chosen (1 John 2:1-2).

c. God has ordained that every person who believes on Christ will be saved (Jn. 6:40).

d. God has commanded that the gospel be preached to every person (Mark 16:15).

e. The Holy Spirit convicts every sinner and Jesus draws and gives light to every sinner (Jn. 1:9; 12:32; 16:7-8).

f. Believers are the elect of God, but that does not mean that God chooses some to be saved and the others not to be saved. Election is based on God'’s foreknowledge (1 Pet. 1:2).

Yes, all the Calvinists I know just hate evangelizing because why take precious time away from smoking pipes and reading heavy theology just to witness to the lost when God has already chosen whom He wants to save? Please. Don't you just admire the way he is able to roll every Arminian platitude and eisegetical interpretation into 6 brief bullet points? And this guy really thinks he is a legitimate defender of the Christian faith? If there is no one in particular contending for the Calvinist Gadfly award, I certainly nominate David Cloud.

The Promise Argument

(Examining the Arguments for King James Onlyism [pt. 3])

I would like to continue further into my examination of the 6 arguments used to defend King James Onlyism. I have already considered the first argument called the Exclusivity Argument. This time, I move to the second one on my list that I call the promise argument.

The promise argument can be summarized as follows: According to KJV advocates, God has promised throughout the pages of scripture that He will preserve His Word. This promise of preservation entails more than just the message of God's entire revelation, but the actual words in the physical, autographic biblical text. Put another way, God does more than promise the preservation of His overall revelation, but has promised the preservation of the very words as the prophets and apostles originally penned them.

One of the more scholarly KJV advocates, D. A. Waite, describes this promise argument in this manner,

You may be asking yourself, "Do we have the Words of God today?" or, "Are the Words of God intact today?" I believe every one of the Words of God has been preserved or kept right down to the present. There are two strong reasons for this. (1) The first reason why I believe in Bible preservation is that God has repeatedly promised in both the Old and New Testaments, that He would preserve and keep every one of His Words that originally gave in the Hebrew and Greek languages. (2) The second reason I believe in Bible preservation is that God has always kept His promises in the past, and we assume that He will keep up this perfect record in the present and on into the future. (Defending the King James Bible, 1995 edition, pg. 6)

Because God has promised such accurate, pristine preservation of His Word that in turn means there must be an available copy of the original autographic text of the Hebrew and Greek containing His preserved Word. King James advocates obviously conclude that available copy was to be found in the original language texts utilized by the KJV translators: the Ben Chayyim edition of the Masoretic text for the Hebrew of the OT and the Erasmus Received Text for the Greek of the NT.

I will be covering the idea of biblical preservation in more depth when I come to the textual argument, but here I want to look at the KJV only claim that God has promised, as Waite stated, He would preserve and keep every one of His Words that He originally gave in the Hebrew and Greek languages.

Does God's promise to preserve His word extend beyond the divinely revealed message of the whole of scripture so as to encompass the physical copies of the original autographs? Let me state here that I do affirm God's preservation of His revelation as it is contained in the pages of the Bible. I believe God has preserved His Word with such care that any reputable, conservative English translation conveys accurately what the original authors wrote. I reject, however, the KJV only claim that God's promise of preservation involves God providentially guiding the transmission of one group of manuscripts down through history and protecting it from any variation among the copies.

I further reject the KJV only idea that God supernaturally directs the copyists of the biblical text to copy the original biblical document with exact precision so as to keep it from containing variants, and that God guided the copyists to re-insert words and phrase that allegedly fell out from the text either accidentally or intentionally. Yes, I believe God preserves His Word, but I believe it is in the totality of all the available manuscript evidence, variants and copyist errors included. Again, I will cover preservation in fuller detail at a later time.

Allow me to address a handful of problematic areas with the promise argument:

First, I believe the KJV advocates falsely equate the idea of "God's Word" or "words" with the exactness of the physical text. Now, I need to be absolutely clear here. I am not saying that we can't point to a physical Bible and affirm it is the Word of God. I certainly believe that. What I am saying is that the biblical idea of God's Word has always been God's divine revelation, and not the physical text.

Through out the Bible, the writers of scripture speak of God's revelation as the Word of the Lord, or in the plural, the Words of the Lord. The Word of the Lord is either revealed by speech, the proclamation of a prophet or apostle; or by writing, the written sermons of a prophet or the epistles of an Apostle. The term, Word of the Lord or the Words of the Lord, is synonymous with the whole of God's divine revelation. Eventually, that divine revelation was encapsulated in the biblical documents containing the 39 books of the OT and the 27 of the NT. The Bible then is a written record of the divine mind revealed to man, particularly God's redeemed people and can properly be considered, The Word of God.

The Word of the Lord testifies to itself as being infallible, pure, true, trustworthy, holy and all the other theologically descriptive terms used to explain its source being from God. Once God's revelation was written down, however, men had to maintain copies of that revelation in order to transmit it through history. Those copies, unlike the divine revelation with its source in an infallible God, are man-made with their source in fallible men, and as a result, errors of transmission seep into the copies. In fact, variants are an unavoidable reality with handwritten documents like the manuscripts for the Bible. Regardless of how meticulous a person will be to guard against mistakes when copying, mistakes do happen. We have about 3,000 pieces of manuscript evidence for the OT documents and 5,500 pieces of manuscript evidence for the NT documents. Even the cleanest, most intact manuscripts from this collection contain variants and mistakes. (I recognize that KJV onlyists exaggerate the significance of these variants as to their impact upon scripture, but I will take that up in a later post).

Men make mistakes in copying and God in His wisdom was pleased to allow that to happen. However, the mistakes found in the physical texts of copied scripture do not equate the loss of the divine revelation. The divine revelation is still infallible, pure and trustworthy. It is the copied physical text that contains the errors. KJV advocates insist that if any deviation takes place in the actual physical copy, then God's revelation has been marred or worse still, lost. Yet, God has never promised that He will prevent the miscopying of His divine revelation that is written. What God has done is to entrust godly men to copy His Word and do the best they can under normal circumstances in maintaining the text's integrity. And, in spite of all the many copying mistakes, godly men have done a remarkable job of keeping the text's integrity despite KJV advocates accusation of intentional corruption by heretics.

Furthermore, God allows His written divine revelation to be translated, and translation definitely alters the original, autographic text by removing it from the original biblical language and rendering it into another, entirely different language. The presence of foreign language versions of God's written revelation that have been used of God to bring men to salvation, along with guiding His people, is alone enough to disprove the promise argument as put forth by KJV advocates.

The most problematic area where the KJV promise argument falls apart is with the abuse of scripture KJV advocates utilize in order to defend their claim of God's promise. For example, D.A Waite examines 15 passages of scripture in his attempt to demonstrate that God has promised to keep every word in tact to this very day that was originally written by the original authors. Though many of the passages he cites speak of God's promises never failing, none of them have any relevance to God promising to preserve His Word on a textual level exactly as the original authors wrote it. Waite ignores the context from where the passages are taken and infers his own conclusions by reading into them what he wants them to say in an eisegetical manner.

The one passage nearly all KJV only advocates appeal to in order to establish the promise argument, however, is Psalm 12:6,7. Probably the first KJV advocate to use this passage in defense of God's promise of preservation reaching into the King James translation, was 7th -Day Adventist, Benjamin Wilkinson, in his book Our Authorized Version Vindicated and re-published in D.O. Fuller's book, Which Bible?

Psalm 12:6,7 reads:

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. (KJV)

Removed from its immediate context, and read with KJV only presuppositional glasses, the passage appears to vindicate what KJV advocates argue. God's words are pure words and He will keep and preserve those words through every generation forever. The immediate antecedent for the plural pronoun them is the plural noun, words. Thus, it would make sense to conclude that God has promised to preserve His words.

However, the Hebrew language is sharply different from English in that it has grammatical gender, something not common to English. In Hebrew, the pronouns will match the antecedent nouns in both number and gender. Here is Psalm 12:6,7, the two thems of verse 7 are masculine in gender and with the second them actually being singular (literally, him). The closest antecedents in our English translation, the two words in verse 6, words, are really feminine, so the two nouns do not match the masculine thems. The closest masculine nouns are found back in verse 5 with poor and needy. Hence, God is not promising to preserve the text of scripture, but preserves the poor and the needy from being overwhelmed by the ungodly. When considered in its entire context, that interpretation appropriately fits. Doug Kutilek has an excellent article detailing this passage in light of the KJV only promise argument.

In summary, the KJV only claim of God promising to preserve every word written in the original autographs so that even this very day we can hold what amounts to a photo copy of Paul's letter to Titus, fails in light of the historic evidence. Yes, God is faithful to keep His revelation from corruption and this I believe He has accomplished. However, it was not in the manner that KJV onlyists claim.

Next time, I will take up the KJV argument for textual preservation. Does their view of textual preservation stand against the facts?

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Friday, November 04, 2005

A Little Humor for a Thursday Evening

Last evening we had just sat down for dinner when the phone rings. My wife answers and it was a telle-marketer. This is the conversation that ensued:

Wife: Hello

TM: Hi ... fer a ... eal on a free Nokia ... ell pho ... We ... Cingular Wi ... ess?

Wife: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that?

TM: No ... ell phone ... when you sign up with Cing ... ess.

Wife: What is your name?

TM: ....

Wife: What is your name!?

TM: ... gular Wireless?

Wife: No. What is your name!?

TM: ... berly

Wife: Who?

TM: Kim ...

Wife: Kim?

TM: Yes, Kimberly

Wife: Are you on one of those cell phones now?

TM: ... es.

Wife: Excuse me.

TM: Yes.

Wife: Could you please remove our number from this list?

TM ... emove your ... num ... ?

Wife: Yes. Please remove our number. Thank you and good bye.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I Got Mine

It is a rare treat to have Phil Johnson drop by my room. Today was an extra treat. He popped in with a spring in his step and presented to me the brand new Pyromanic decal. He was so proud, like a father showing pictures of his new born.

I thought about putting mine on my car, but I don't want it to get ruined. And what would I do if I sold the car? These things are as valuable as original hand written manuscripts of Shakespeare's sonnets. I just can't slap it on any old bumper or stick it to my computer moniter. I hope you take the Frank Turk route, Phil, and make up some coffee mugs and tee-shirts. I for one would love a coffee mug. One of those large, 20 ouncer sizes.