Clear Thinking and Necessary Conclusions

In the textual discussion, much of the disagreement comes down to how each side thinks about the data presented. Much like any debate, the topic is almost never resolved on the establishment of evidence, but rather how that evidence is interpreted. We can look at the debate regarding the age of the Earth as a mainstream example. The ancient philosophers gave us the law of non-contradiction, which tells us that contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. This goes hand in hand with the law of the excluded middle, which tells us that a proposition or its negation is true. I can say with a high amount of confidence that the majority of claims made by the critical text violate these logical constructs if the premise assumes the Protestant understanding of Scripture.

This is one of the main reasons I do not spend a great deal of time examining evidence on this blog, because the substance of this discussion can be resolved with using our logical, rational, mental faculties. If it is the case that the Bible is the Word of God, and that the Bible is infallible, preserved, and available, then every argument presented by the critical text fails to hold up to logical consistency. This is due to the fact that the foundational principle of the critical text negates the Protestant claim of purity of the Scriptures. If an argument based on evidence is in violation of these logical principles, then they cannot be used as a valid support for one text or another. In other words, if an evidential proof negates the claim that Scripture is pure, then it is not suitable to support Christian doctrine. If in the process of “proving” a text to be “earliest” one actually proves the Bible to be corrupt, it actually works against the purpose of the argument in the first place.

We can go into the confessional argument for providential preservation, but this has been ineffective at convincing critical text advocates, despite the Scriptures being incredibly clear on the topic. Rather, I’d like to make an argument based on the availability of Scripture, which compliments or perhaps even precedes the argument of providential preservation. Many arguments for the Providential Preservation often exclude the fundamental building block which is the availability of Scripture. This is, in large part, how those in the Critical Text camp claim that their position is orthodox. They often make the claim that “The Bible is preserved,” they just argue for a different model of preservation. In the modern view, Scripture is preserved in the manuscript tradition, whereas the Received Text camp argues that it is preserved in textual traditions that the people of God have used in the ages. While the argument is quite different for preservation between the two groups, both are advocating for a version of it. The substantial difference here is actually availability. The Received Text camp argues that the Bible is preserved and available today, whereas the Critical Text camp argues that the Bible is preserved and not fully available today.

This premise of the Critical Text position gives us clarity on statements which say that “what we have is good enough” or that “we do not have exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote.” In the Critical Text perspective, it is only important that the Scriptures are preserved, not that we actually have access to those preserved Scriptures. This is one of the fundamental flaws in the modern position on Scripture because it does not consider the purpose for the Scriptures. If you subscribe to the Protestant tradition, then you believe that the way God communicates to His people is through the Scriptures. Therefore, in order for God to communicate to His people, His people must have access to the Scriptures. The modern position on the Bible is that Christians only need enough access to God’s Word, all that is required to be saved. This is not the Protestant position. According to the Protestant tradition, the purpose of Scripture is for all matters of faith and practice, not just mere Christianity. This position acknowledges that there is more to the Christian religion than the moment you are saved.

One of the most important debates during the Reformation and Post-Reformation period was that of the purity of religion. It was not enough to simply believe in God, it was imperative that you believed correctly about the nature of God and thus the nature of salvation and religious practice. This debate is still relevant today, though I would argue that it has devolved far beyond what occurred during the Reformation. Nevertheless, Christians all acknowledge that the Scriptures teach us about God and how we are to orient ourselves towards God in our beliefs and practices. This is where the argument of availability must be applied. If it is the case that the Scriptures are preserved, but the full extent of those Scriptures are not available, there is a huge gap in our ability to stand on Christian doctrine. Even more concerning is that this gap cannot be defined in any meaningful way in the modern system.

If we acknowledge that the Bible is preserved but not fully available, then our argument contains a gap. This gap is defined by the number of passages or words that we are not confident are original. The number of passages and words which we are not confident in is indefinable. In other words, if we assume this premise, we not only struggle to define what is not Scripture, but also what is Scripture. Simply put, we have no ability to define what of our text is available. In this model, what we do know is that the totality of Scripture is not available, because that is our claim in the first place. What we say is that while we do not have the original, what we do have is enough. But if it is impossible to define to what degree of Scripture is available, it logically follows that we cannot, under any circumstance, define what “enough” means. In order to do this, we would have to know the percentage of the original we do have. We would need to know what was in the original to understand that what we have is “enough of the original.” And we know that the modern view does not make any claims to define this metric. In fact, the modern position claims that, “even if we did have it [the original], we wouldn’t know it.” So in the first place, it is illogical and impossible to make any claims regarding the “enoughness” of Scripture we have, and in the second place the Protestant claims regarding the nature of Scripture are invalidated outright in this model because the claims of Protestant theology assumes certainty in the text from which they are derived.

If it is the case that we cannot derive what exactly “enough” means, then it follows that all of our claims based on that text are equally as ambiguous. Any assumption of “enoughness” is purely speculative. We assume that what we have is enough without actually knowing what “enough” even means. This is why any speculations or assertions regarding this text or that is categorically unimportant from a critical text perspective. Even if we were able to determine with a high degree of certainty that a text was the earliest text we have in the manuscript tradition, we have no ability to conclude if that text is original, or complete. This is precisely the view of the top textual scholars today as they articulate it in their publications. That means that any Protestant appropriation of modern textual scholarship is purely fideistic. It blindly trusts that what the textual scholars have produced is “enough”, because “enough” has not and cannot be defined. There is no textual mechanism that gets us from “earliest” to “original” and there is no textual mechanism that can even prove “earliest.” Any claim attempting to fit modern textual scholarship into Protestant theology fails the logical constructs that would make it functional.

In summary, the reason the modern textual methods are not suited for consistent application to Christian faith and practice is because they cannot define the scope of Scripture, and therefore cannot define the scope of “Christian faith and practice.” If the claim is that Scripture is infallible, that it cannot fail to do what God intended it to do, then the text must be defined completely. We have to know what Scripture says in order to claim anything that Scripture says is true. If the text is not defined, then there are no parameters on what “enough” means, and therefore by necessity our definition of what Christian faith and practice is at best incomplete and at worst incorrect. This is how the modern view on Scripture impacts the every day Christian. Christianity is a religion built on exclusive truth claims. These truth claims require that Scripture be fully defined and available. So if we do not claim our text is available, then we have no right to claim that anything is authoritative from that text. We can say, “We have enough to claim authority,” but we haven’t defined what “enough” means. There is no way to consistently make such claims from a text that is not fully defined.

This is not a debate over which Bible version is best, it is a debate over whether or not we can make truth claims from an undefined text. The modern position does not assert that the text is fully defined, nor does it define which words in that text are original. This raises the question, “How can you argue for a text that you have not defined?” The answer is, you can’t. The text the modern position advocates for is not defined, and therefore it cannot be defended. In order to make the claim that we have “enough” of the text, you actually have to define what “enough” means. In short, there is not a Bible that is substantially being argued for, or defended in the modern textual position.

I will let my reader make their own conclusions from this reality. Until the modern textual advocates define what “enough” is, they do not appear to actually be arguing for anything that fits in the theological tradition of Protestant Christianity, because they have no ability to define what Protestant Christianity is without defining the Bible. They must first assume the conclusions of theologians who did assert they had the fullness of the text of Scripture in order to do so. As far as I’m concerned, that is what “enough” means. “We have enough of Scripture to come to the same conclusions as those who believed they had the full text of the Bible.”

1 thought on “Clear Thinking and Necessary Conclusions”

  1. Excellent reasoning! Had not thought about that before in the same way. Thx.

    It’s interesting in 2 Kings 22, when the priest comes back to Josiah after having discovered the book of the Law, which had obviously been collecting dust for quite a while (about 75 years by rough calculation (chap 21/22 – 55+2+18 yrs)), that no one says, “I wonder if this is a faithful copy or not?” They received the text for what it was.


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