We live in the age of unreason, where many people are uncertain if this world is real, or simply a simulation. Scholars with the highest level of credentialing are advocating for silly nonsense like “2+2=5”. The 24 hour news cycle is wrong more than it is right, and people’s discernment is at an all time low. You can literally watch a video of a person throwing an explosive into a building and thousands of people will call that “peaceful protesting”. You can blame the schools and universities or perhaps parents failing to bring up their children in nurture and admonition of the Lord and you’d be right on both accounts. If you have ever had an argument with somebody in the last four years, you have likely experienced what I call “The Post-Modern Zeitgeist”.
The Post-Modern Zeitgeist is the inability for somebody to fairly assess an argument or be persuaded from their current position no matter how strong the evidence is against their current position. Instead, those overcome with this spirit of the age will ignore sound reasoning and engage in projection, pejoratives, and ad hominem attacks. They will accuse you of doing exactly what they are doing, and then claim victory after offering character attacks and saying nothing of substance. If you’ve ever talked with somebody who believes they are correct simply because they said their point emphatically and repeatedly without considering any objections, you likely know what I’m talking about. This zeitgeist has infected the minds of Americans in every sphere whether it be politics, medicine, and for the purpose of this blog, Bibliology. This post-modern zeitgeist prevents many well meaning, good-hearted Christians from seeing the legitimate flaws in modern text critical methodology.
Discernment in the Age of Unreason
There are certain arguments, realities, or facts that are so compelling that they can discredit the validity of an argument simply by being true. 2 + 2 cannot be 5, because it is 4. These kinds of arguments should be able to at least get you to question whether your view is incomplete, or perhaps needs work. For example, in the text critical world, otherwise faithful men continue to defend the modern critical text, despite its methodology being completely empty and devoid of anything sound enough to adopt its various theories. Most people who adopt a modern bible assume that they have the word of God. They defend their bible assuming this same premise, despite having absolutely no ground to do so. It is not the case that the Word of God isn’t preserved and available, it is that the scholars who produce these modern texts literally say that the bible isn’t perfectly preserved or available in any of their texts. This is what one of the most trusted authorities, Dan Wallace, has to say regarding the authenticity and originality of modern bibles:
Gurry & Hixson, Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, xii
“We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”
This quote is contained within one of the newest works in Evangelical Textual Criticism. This view, espoused by Wallace, is lock-step with the greater Evangelical community as it pertains to Bibliology. This quote is important, because it says plainly what I have been saying on this blog since I started it last year – the methods of textual criticism are not adequate to arrive at a final product, and are not adequate to claim any amount of certainty in a given passage. This is not some theory of mine, these scholars and advocates readily admit it. Let me explain by breaking down this quote:
We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote.”
This is an admission that there is no product that the modern Evangelical community believes to be the original Word of God. Even if some people within this camp are willing to say they are certain enough in their bible to read it, if pressed on which passages they believe to be original, they will not answer directly. This is a necessary conclusion of the methodology. Wallace continues:
“Even if we did, we would not know it.”
This is an admission that there is no text-critical methodology that can validate the product of any current text-critical effort. In other words, even if modern textual critics produced something final, they could not say, “This is the original bible” according to the methods they used to produce it. Because modern textual criticism is completely empirical, it can never arrive at a final answer because we do not have the required empirical data to validate the end product. Dan Wallace admits it along with all of his peers.
The necessary conclusion and argument I want to present now is this: The modern critical text does not represent the original Word of God, and the scholars that produced it and advocate for it do not claim that it does represent the original Word of God. Therefore, any and all claims that those who advocate for the originality of a verse by way of this methodology do so erroneously. Further, any claims made regarding other texts not produced by this method are likewise hollow because the evidence is evaluated by the same methodology that does not claim to have a way to know if a text is original. Thus, any and all claims made by a method which says, “Even if we did, we would not know it”, is bound to the methodological fact that it does not have any authority to make claims regarding the originality of any text.
The plain reality of this argument is that those that defend the modern critical text do so on shifting sand. Apologists may make compelling arguments for one text or against another, but these apologists are bound to the axiomatic reality that their method cannot make such claims responsibly. It is the same paradox that a moral relativist encounters when he is outraged at a perceived injustice. No matter how angry this injustice makes him, he does not have the proper framework to argue for the logical coherence of his anger. In the same way, the advocate of the modern critical text(s) has no basis by which they can responsibly make any claims regarding the authenticity, or lack of authenticity of a given text. Like the moral relativist, his defense or attack is simply arbitrary. To say that the modern critical text(s) is the original Word of God, you are saying that 2 + 2 = 5. You must ignore what all of the scholars are saying along with what the methodology and theology they are using to produce such texts. Such argumentation should be marked and avoided. If you claim that your view aligns with Dan Wallace as some popular internet apologists claim, or any of these other evangelical scholars, you must necessarily reject WCF 1.8, LBCF 1.8, and any idea of a preserved and available bible.