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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The KJV-only Naturalistic, Non-neutrality Argument

When I was a practicing King James only apologist, I would often tell my detractors that if they didn't adhere to the KJV-only view of textual criticism, then they were not treating the text of the Bible with God-honoring faith. I would point out that in reality they were practical secular humanists applying naturalistic opinions toward the inspiration and preservation of the Bible.

I took this idea from the writings of Edward F. Hills who was a defender of the "traditional text" and thus the KJV as a translation. For example, Hills writes in the opening chapter of his well known work, The King James Version Defended,

Thus, there are two methods of New Testament textual criticism, the consistently Christian method and the naturalistic method. These two methods deal with the same materials, the same Greek manuscripts, and the same translations and biblical quotations, but they interpret these materials differently. The consistently Christian method interprets the materials of New Testament textual criticism in accordance with the doctrines of the divine inspiration and providential preservation of the Scriptures. The naturalistic method interprets these same materials in accordance with its own doctrine that the New Testament is nothing more than a human book. (KJVD, Christian Research Press edition, pg. 3).

The remainder of Hill's book is devoted to contrasting these two methods. His contention is that modern day textual criticism is a product of the naturalistic method which has its roots in the Enlightenment period, a time known for the rise of modernism, unbelief, and the rejection of the supernatural. The naturalistic philosophy born out of the Enlightenment treats the Bible as being "just any other book," thus stripping the Bible of its importance as a revelation from God. It is no longer treated as being inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

Additionally, Hills argues that this naturalistic philosophy removes any hand of providential preservation for the Bible through the sea of time. Rather than God affirming the preservation of His Word by the consistent use and transmission of a specific textual tradition by orthodox believers throughout the course of Church history, naturalistic textual criticism believes the "original readings" of the scripture are determined by evaluating and weighing the relevance of important manuscripts. Even though those important manuscripts may had only been used on a small scale as opposed to a wider usage of those manuscripts found in the Traditional Text preferred by the consistent Christian method, they are considered to be the best manuscripts. That is because they are, according to "naturalistic principles," much closer to the originals and contain better readings of the biblical text itself.

Hills further claims that this naturalistic approach to textual criticism begins with the fallacious notion of a neutral starting point. Rather than a person starting his thinking about textual criticism presupposing the truth of Christianity and the infallibility of the Christian worldview, the person appeals to man's reason to find common agreement concerning the validity of certain textual critical principles. The false notion of a neutral starting point on the part of well intentioned evangelical conservative Christians, argues Hills, really submits the person's faith entirely to modernistic, naturalistic thinking, which in turn promotes an illogical inconsistency. For on one hand, the Christian presupposes the truthfulness of the Christian worldview when it comes to other areas of biblical studies, but abandons this presupposition for naturalistic reason when it comes to textual criticism.

According to Hills, the consistent Christian method not only acknowledges the fact of divine inspiration and inerrancy for the biblical text, but also recognizes divine, providential preservation for the transmission of that text. Over the course of 244 pages, Hills attempts to demonstrate that the consistent Christian method, what he calls the logic of faith, will affirm that the true text God preserved is the Traditional Text that was published by Erasmus, used by the Reformers, and eventually translated and is now contained in the King James Version.

Later, when I was exposed to the reformed apologetic theology of Cornelius Van Til, I felt as though my conviction concerning my view learned from Edward Hills of the logic of faith, textual criticism, and the King James Bible, was correct because Van Til and his followers argued rather persuasively against the so-called myth of neutrality. Van Til noted that all men view their reality from a set of unquestioned, biased presuppositions. There is no person on the planet who ever lived who was unbiased as it were. All people have a filter through which they judge, make decisions, accept something as true or false, and essentially live out their lives. Because, as the Bible reveals, men are fallen in sin, separated from God, and opposed to His sovereign authority, man's biases are going to be at odds against God so that all sinners will attempt to interpret their world in order to justify and excuse away their rebellion.

Now, even though I believe Van Til is correct about the myth of neutrality, I believe KJV-onlyists are inaccurate when they employ the concept in their attempt to build their defense for the Traditional/Received Text/ King James Bible. A Christian is not abandoning a presuppositional apologetic of scripture and thus falling into the trap of acting autonomously apart from God's authority if he rejects the KJV-only view of the Bible's transmission.

In a recent blog post by a pro-KJV traditional text apologist at the Jackhammer page an attempt is made to wed King James onlyism to presuppositionalism. The author even cites from Greg Bahnsen in support of his claim, one of Van Til's premier students who popularized his apologetics for our current generation in written books, lectures, and some key public debates. Additionally, another Jackhammer contributor, Kent Brandenburg, made similar claims in the comments of my post interacting with some comments he and others made to me on his site.

Because this is a foundational argument put forth by more sensible KJV supporters like our detractors at Jackhammer, I believe they, as well as Hills, are worthy of a brief response.

The naturalistic philosophy Hills criticizes as the key element of his argument actually began much earlier than the Enlightenment period. Historically speaking, the tendency of Christians to appeal to man's reason as an arbiter for determining truth began with Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval Roman Catholic theologian. He was the one who formulated the classic apologetic proofs for God's existence appealing to logic and reason alone, apart from scripture. He is the godfather of the type of evidentialism Hills (and the Jackhammer boys) claims is foundational for modern-day textual criticism, and his theology/apologetics were derived from Aristotle's Greek philosophy.

This is an important point to ponder because Erasmus, who edited the text that would eventually carry the name of the Received Text some hundred plus years later, was a Roman Catholic soaked in Aquinas's theology. This is clearly seen in his written debates against Martin Luther in which he argued in favor of man's free-will cooperating with God in order to save himself. If anyone is guilty of naturalistic reasoning when doing textual criticism, it is Erasmus.

Hills' logic of faith also engages in similar inconsistencies like the ones he accuses those who adhere to modern textual criticism. For example, on writing about the preservation of the NT, Hills states,

The special providence of God is particularly evident in the fact that the text of the Greek New Testament was first printed and published not in the East but in Western Europe where the influence of the Latin usage and of the Latin Vulgate was very strong. Through the influence of the Latin-speaking Church Erasmus and his successors were providentially guided to follow the Latin Vulgate here and there in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading. Hence the Textus Receptus was a further step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. In it the few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church of Western Europe. (ibid., pg. 107).

On the one hand, Hills is saying that the Traditional Greek Text, that family of manuscripts represented in the Byzantine text, the very ones he and other KJV defenders argue faithfully represent God's Word preserved, gathered errors at various places within the text along its history of being transmitted by copying. Yet, on the other hand, the Latin Vulgate, the one translation often dismissed as viable by KJV advocates, was used by Erasmus to correct those errors in the Traditional Text.

A few questions are at hand:

How did Erasmus determine these corrections? Did he do it unwittingly and his decision is chalked up as being directed by providence? Or did he make autonomous, wise choices between competing textual variants and thus sided with the ones he thought were the best, again having his choice chalked up to providence? If that is the case, marking such decisions up to "providential preservation" due to hindsight is a convenient way to prove someone's theory, in this case, the logic of faith.

Additionally, if the Traditional Text is the one true text affirmed by Hills' logic of faith, why are any corrections necessary? Is Hills suggesting God providentially preserved His Word across a wide spectrum of manuscript families and translational traditions? How come I could not conclude divine providential preservation was at work at the publication of Westcott and Hort's Greek text in the late 1800s? I could very easily argue God used the Anglican Church to preserve God's Word, but then Westcott and Hort were guided by providential preservation to correct those errors in the Received Text that had accumulated over time, just as providence guide Erasmus to use the Vulgate to correct the Greek text.

A second notable objection to Hills' argument is that he doesn't explain why the principles of naturalistic textual criticism are naturalistic to begin with. For example, Hills points out in his book that the principle of preferring the most simplistic reading of a textual variant is naturalistic. But how exactly is that principle "naturalistic" and treating the Bible with neutrality? If there are a handful of variant readings of a particular verse in a variety of textual and translational traditions, all of which have been utilized by Christian believers, then how is a person to make a determination which reading is correct one when he is editing a textual apparatus for translating work ? How does the providential guidance work in cases like this? Hills seems to suggests that no one should make any choice in favor of a variant reading if it goes against the reading found in the Traditional Text. The only one who had the authority was Erasmus in the case of preferring certain Vulgate readings to correct the "errors" of the Traditional Text up until that time.

Consider my previous point above. Both the so-called Traditional Text favored by Hills, and the Latin Vulgate, were used extensively by Christians over many centuries. But even Hills admits that Erasmus sided with the Vulgate over the traditional text in certain places. However, when Erasmus chooses a reading over another one, it is called divine preservation, but if a modern textual critic makes the exact same choice based upon sound principles, he is considered being naturalistic. Why?

The appeal to, and evaluation of evidence, is not incompatible with presuppositional apologetics nor is it solely naturalistic. The Christian faith is not fidelistic. In other words, it is not a blind faith. Though it is most certain Christianity is a revelational faith, meaning its foundation is what God has revealed to us through His prophets and apostles and especially in the person of Jesus Christ, God does demonstrate the affirmation of His revelation.

For instance, God made specific covenant promises to the children of Israel. The OT is a record of God keeping those promises. He demonstrated His covenant faithfulness in space and time and His actions were witnessed by a multitude of people. Also, in Luke 2, the angel tells the shepherds about Christ being born in Bethlehem, and then those shepherd's witnessed a spectacular angelic display of praise to God in the highest. When the angels left, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened" (Luke 2:15), and the revelation given to them by the angels was verified by finding the nativity just as they were told.

It is not that Christianity objects to and rejects evidence for the sake of evidence because it is "naturalistic." The point about the myth of neutrality being made by Van Til and Bahnsen, and presuppositionalism as a system, is that evidence must be interpreted. The Christian interprets any evidence in light of God's revelation, because God has determined the meaning of our reality. When we fear Him and submit to the knowledge of God, we interpret evidence correctly. However, As I noted above, the Bible tells us that fallen men are at enmity against God and no matter how compelling any evidence may be in favor of God's existence or the Bible's infallibility, they will suppress the truthfulness of that evidence and re-interpret it to excuse away their rebellion against their creator.

When a non-KJV-only Bible-believer comes to the textual evidence, he too begins with the faith commitment revealed in scripture that God's Word is true, all scripture is God-breathed, and God will preserve His Word. However, when he examines the entire body of manuscript evidence left for us today, he further recognizes that God was pleased to use fallible men to copy and transmit His infallible revelation. The "fallible" men include both sincere, God-fearing individuals and not so sincere "Christian in name only" individuals.

It is true members in the second group do believe the biblical text is just like any other book and mishandle textual criticism in order to make the claim the Bible cannot be trusted as an infallible revelation. But, those who are in the first group have recognized the integrity of the biblical documents in spite of the variants, copying mistakes, and translational errors. Their handling of the textual evidence with the use of sound textual critical principles demonstrates God's faithfulness to keep His Word. Hence, through out Church History the vast members of the priesthood of believers have affirmed the Bible's preservation apart from the manner in which Traditional Text/KJ-only proponents say it was preserved, and that confidence not at all naturalistic.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Fundamentally Reformed said...

Excellent post, Fred.

From my interaction with Brandenburg previously, he dislikes any dependence on Hills. He claims Hills is all about "providential" preservation in opposition to or "perfect" preservation.

Hills is honest enough to admit a few minor errors in both the TR and the KJV. So that is why he's spurned, I guess. So Brandenburg's fidelism is more thorough-going than Hills'.

Regardless, though, I think you make a great case against couching the debate in terms of fidelism vs. naturalism.

Truth be told Hills' honesty led me to ask serious and specific questions of my position. I searched for answers, and was given a few, but none really qualified as an "answer". None of the answers really addressed all my concerns. This and other problems with my then position, led me to eventually abandon it.

6:30 PM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger Dave Mallinak said...

Fred said, The author even cites from Greg Bahnsen in support of his claim

That was interesting, Fred. You have said this twice now. You might want to re-read the article because you clearly missed the point of my quoting Bahnsen. But in case you are struggling to understand my reasons for quoting him, I'll explain it to you here in the simplest terms possible.

I did not cite Bahnsen in support of my arguments for perfect preservation.

I cited Bahnsen because I wanted to be clear about what I meant by "presuppositional." I wanted to be clear that I held to his version of it, to Van Til's. I quoted him to make that clear to people like yourself who might be tempted to doubt what I mean by "presuppositional." I am reading him and Van Til right now, and I thought his statements were better than I could say, so I quoted him.

I did not think that Bahnsen would agree with my KJVO position. I knew he wouldn't.

If you'll read my article again, you might notice this time that the author I quoted in support of my arguments was in fact Douglas Wilson, not Greg Bahnsen. Wilson has argued for our position for some time, though (and I think I said this) I don't believe that he would apply it in all the ways we do.

But I wonder something (several somethings, in fact). First, why is it that the guys on your side, including yourself, spend your time denying our position, but never any time giving us a Scriptural approach (presuppositional) arguing for textual criticism? Bob promised to lay out the Scriptural case for it, verses and all. That was 6 weeks ago. From what I can see, he doesn't believe that God tells us how he will preserve his word, so it is up for grabs. We'll all have to be scientists on that part. That seems to be your argument as well. But does the Bible say that?

In my article on Presuppositions and Preservation, I gave real arguments. Why not deal with those instead of discussing Erasmus ad nausium? And why is it that Douglas Wilson takes the position we do, calling it the position of Confessing Christians as opposed to that of "priestly scientists?"

2:38 PM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Kent Brandenburg said...

Fred,

You were quite civil in this article. Thanks. It isn't the normal fare from the multiple version folks.

I understood the point of your article to be that you and we (the "Jackhammer boys") both believe presuppositionalism, but you apply it accurately and we don't. I would agree if I could, but I can't. I'll tell you why, among other things.

First, we don't attempt to wed one Bible only (OBO) to presuppositionalism. We have taken our position from Scripture. I don't read CT and eclectic men who do this at all. You continue that tradition with this article. We didn't start with a OBO and then look to presupp. apologetics, but we started with presuppositions and came to OBO.

Second, you don't understand our Biblical presuppositions if you think that Erasmus carries a major role.

Third, the book of Esther and the work of Mordecai reveal several aspects Scripturally defining providence. Many people made choices, but God worked it altogether for His good based upon His promises. He even used wicked Haman. Our position isn't a hindsight position, but a historic one, which you would have seen if you had read our entire month of articles.

Fourth, your position lacks the Scriptural presupposition of availability. The CT wasn't accessible for 300 plus years. That doesn't fit a Biblical presupposition.

Fifth, your blind faith assertion smacks only of ad hominem.

Sixth, in my entire life I still have seen no Scriptural presuppositions has it applies to preservation of Scripture. I have never had our presuppositions proven to be false Scripturally. Some may argue certain texts, but the presuppositions themselves stand.

p.s. Bob, you regularly speak for me in blogs. You did that recently on this blog, defining my view of worldliness as "pants on women" and "music with a beat in it." Do you see how that is disengenuous? Please let me speak for me, because you don't do a good job of it. When you speak for me and then people argue against your version of me, your edition is worse than a straw man. Notice Bob calls us dishonest. We are dishonest he says about admitting errors. I guess that kind of thing is fine with you. Is the debate "fideism" versus "naturalism?" I thought both those were supposedly wrong? Concerning your "story," you NEVER communicated to us that you were on some trek off of the view of perfect preservation or we would have given you the "answers," Bob. You didn't ask us. Let that be known. We NEVER avoided Bob's questions ONE time. We believe in providential, perfect preservation, because perfect fits a Scriptural presupposition.

1:56 PM, March 24, 2007  
Blogger Kent Brandenburg said...

My "sixth" above, let me add to the first sentence---seen no Scriptural presuppositions from the multiple version crowd.

1:58 PM, March 24, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Thanks Dave for stopping by,

I did not cite Bahnsen in support of my arguments for perfect preservation.

I cited Bahnsen because I wanted to be clear about what I meant by "presuppositional." I wanted to be clear that I held to his version of it, to Van Til's. I quoted him to make that clear to people like yourself who might be tempted to doubt what I mean by "presuppositional." I am reading him and Van Til right now, and I thought his statements were better than I could say, so I quoted him.


(Fred) That is exactly what I thought you meant when you quoted Bahnsen. You wanted to call him as a witness to claim you adhere to a consistent presuppositionalism when you engage in your perfect preservation viewpoint. At least that is what you are inferring with your quotation of him. I thought my article made that clear. I am mystified as to why you are complaining.

I did not think that Bahnsen would agree with my KJVO position. I knew he wouldn't.

(Fred) I am happy to read that. Now, are you going to return to his article I linked and deal with the devestating arguments against your fidelistic view of textual criticism?

If you'll read my article again, you might notice this time that the author I quoted in support of my arguments was in fact Douglas Wilson, not Greg Bahnsen. Wilson has argued for our position for some time, though (and I think I said this) I don't believe that he would apply it in all the ways we do.

(Fred) With all due respect to Doug Wilson, and I say this as one who has enjoyed his writing on particular subjects, especially his recent essays against Sam Harris, he doesn't know what he is talking about. Seeing that history affirms the use of multiple biblical texts through out the Christian world from the late 2nd century onward, and not just one stream of tradition he believes was preserved by a believing, though mystical, ecclesiastical body, his arguments don't hold much weight.

First, why is it that the guys on your side, including yourself, spend your time denying our position, but never any time giving us a Scriptural approach (presuppositional) arguing for textual criticism?

(Fred) Didn't give you any scriptural support? I cited the key passage in Timothy that affirms an inspired and preserved Word of God and affirmed that I begin with that presupposition. Hence, when I consider the textual evidence, which is many, my evaluation of those manuscripts are according to the ruling presupposition that I am handling the Inpired and Preserved Word of God. The issue is how we understand in what way God preserved it.

Bob promised to lay out the Scriptural case for it, verses and all. That was 6 weeks ago.

(Fred) I can't speak for Bob. I bet he was so overwhelmned by yours and Kent's argumentation he is still fumbling to find a eloquent response. Surely his lateness in response couldn't be due in part to having to have real life responsibilities. You know, like raising kids, paying bills, actually getting involved with real, flesh and blood people, so that his time is sapped and he doesn't have the opportunity to write an article demanded by a couple of fundy preacher. Maybe he lost interest?

From what I can see, he doesn't believe that God tells us how he will preserve his word, so it is up for grabs. We'll all have to be scientists on that part. That seems to be your argument as well. But does the Bible say that?

(Fred) Welp, we know that God used the Jewish people, primarily the Levitical priests and scribes to preserve the OT texts. Romans 3:2 infers this fact. But I guess you are correct. The NT isn't super duper clear as to the exact means God will use to "preserve" His Word in the NT documents. He just says it will happen. We can see from the entirety of the NT record that Christians affirmed the canon of the NT books and circulated them through out the ancient world and hence we have the great body of manuscript evidence left to us today.

Yet, on the flip side, where does the Bible affirm your particular perspective on preservation? It doesn't, does it now. You have to develop a working philosophy of textual transmission just like me the MV Onlyist guy. Then I guess the debate comes down to which particular perspective on divine preservation is actually affirmed by the Christians through out history and comports with the facts we have in front of us.

In my article on Presuppositions and Preservation, I gave real arguments. Why not deal with those instead of discussing Erasmus ad nausium?

First off, Erasmus is crucial to your perspective. He did provide the working apparatus that was utilized by the KJV translators, so he just cannot be dismissed so easily by you. Your perspective has to deal with the fact he diverged from the Greek text at many places.

Secondly, this will sound blunt, but your article didn't really provide any meaningful arguments in defense of your position. At least what I haven't already read ten years ago from other KJV onlyists. In fact they were quite facile and superficial and lacked any serious exegesis you claimed it contained.

And why is it that Douglas Wilson takes the position we do, calling it the position of Confessing Christians as opposed to that of "priestly scientists?"

(Fred) Honestly? That is because Doug Wilson doesn't know any better.

Fred

2:24 PM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

First, we don't attempt to wed one Bible only (OBO) to presuppositionalism. We have taken our position from Scripture. I don't read CT and eclectic men who do this at all. You continue that tradition with this article. We didn't start with a OBO and then look to presupp. apologetics, but we started with presuppositions and came to OBO.

(Fred) That is a convenient dodge, but a dodge none the less. You have specific KJV only presuppositions due in part to your commitment to historic American style fundamentalism.

Second, you don't understand our Biblical presuppositions if you think that Erasmus carries a major role.

(Fred) Maybe so, but as much as you and Dave wish to see Erasmus as just one minor player among many key ones in your perspective, you cannot overlook the influence of his work in your tradition.

Third, the book of Esther and the work of Mordecai reveal several aspects Scripturally defining providence. Many people made choices, but God worked it altogether for His good based upon His promises. He even used wicked Haman. Our position isn't a hindsight position, but a historic one, which you would have seen if you had read our entire month of articles.

(Fred) I affirm the exact same thing on my non-OBO view.

Fourth, your position lacks the Scriptural presupposition of availability. The CT wasn't accessible for 300 plus years. That doesn't fit a Biblical presupposition.

(Fred) If you genuinely believe this, you are ignorant of historic textual criticism and the availablity of the text.

Fifth, your blind faith assertion smacks only of ad hominem.

(Fred) As does yours.

Sixth, in my entire life I still have seen no Scriptural presuppositions has it applies to preservation of Scripture. I have never had our presuppositions proven to be false Scripturally. Some may argue certain texts, but the presuppositions themselves stand.

(Fred) I have yet to see any one from your position establish your presuppositions scripturally, let alone see them proven false. You can't disprove something that doesn't exist. To say you haven't seen it from the MVO crowd means you haven't read Bahnsen's article I linked who is both a presuppositionalist and a non-OBO/KJV only guy.

Now, as for your situation with Bob, it is apparent to me he has placed some hair on your tongue that annoys you to no end. I have no idea, nor do I necessarily care, what it is that happened between you two. However, bad-mouthing a guy I barely know except through the occasional comments he has left here on my blog is utterly unacceptable and shameful for a guy who claims to be a pastor. The Internet is not the church. From my perspective, Bob seems to be a genuinely nice guy who loves the Lord and is growing in his knowledge of God. Perhaps this bothers you because he is moving away from your brand of myopic fundamentalism. However, I will say that any future posts where anything negative is inferred about his character will be considered gossip, off-topic and deleted.

Fred

2:28 PM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Kent Brandenburg said...

Fred,

I read Brahnsen's entire article. It barely dealt with preservation, did not flesh out from Scripture any doctrine of preservation. He dealt only briefly in the section before his conclusion. You might take this as offensive, and I don't mean it to be so, but I don't believe you know what Scripture says about preservation. Have you studied out the usages of tareo in the NT and natsar and shamar in the OT? You would be not so myopic if you would do so. (By the way, do you like the word "myopic" applied to you?)

Fred, what does one need to be up to date on "textual criticism" and availability? A copy of each of Metzger's books or perhaps better Bart Ehrman's? We know that the CT/Minority Text wasn't available for 300 years. The TR was available then. It's what Christians used/received. Before that, historically it is mud wrestling. Can you prove canonicity historically? How do you do it? If history is important for these doctrines, how do you prove it, Fred? Christ said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church---can you prove that historically for every decade since His ascension? I'm saying that calmly with only a few cat hairs attached.

It is unfortunate the Brahnsen is inconsistent and does not follow Scriptural presuppositions on preservation. Of course, he knows better now. Our book, Thou Shalt Keep Them, lays out the presuppositions Scripturally.

It stands that I have read no developed doctrine of preservation as a presupposition for the MVO view of "preservation." I don't think the MVOs care what Scripture says. My observation is that they mainly deny preservation or attack it. I would be glad for you to point me to one. Combs presentation at the DBTS or anything like that which is just a criticism of an OBO presentation doesn't count.

6:25 PM, March 26, 2007  

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