I regularly read the blog of my friend Kent Brandenburg. He often posts here so we have a mutual admiration society thing going. However, we do disagree at some key points.
He is blogging lately about “The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism”. I usually don’t enter into the debates on this subject as I find the argumentation exceedingly tedious. The same things get said, over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
Against my better judgement, however, I do occasionally wade in. Here is my foray on Kent’s latest post. I am arguing against some assertions Kent made, especially the assertion that God’s people are promised to always have God’s word perfectly preserved in every generation. Kent cited Mt 4.4 as proof of this, I object that it says no such thing. I also offer the example of Josiah in 2 Ki 22, where a scroll of the law is discovered in the temple, apparently forgotten and unused and perhaps the only copy of the law in existence at that time (my inference from the reaction of the king and the apparent mystification of the priests about the scroll – see also 2 Chr 34 for more details).
Well, let me give a little more serious attention to Paul’s arguments (Paul is the commenter).
Paul’s arguments can be summed up this way:
- I am accused of ‘idealism’ where, apparently, it only matters that there is an ideal of the Word somewhere and what we have in the world is an approximate copy of the ideal, more or less accurate.
- I am asked where the Bible says the Scripture was hidden from Israel, with the implication that if it was, God would be accused of failing to preserve his Word.
- Josiah’s reformation is evidence that the Word was known.
Paul the commenter then goes on to add several points that he calls his presuppositions in coming to his argument. Among them are these:
(4) The Bible promises that God would make His Words generally available to every generation of believers (Deut 30:11-14; Isa 34:16; Isa 59:21; Matt 4:4; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 1:17). (This is general availability, not necessarily to every person on the planet.) Certainly, we are told that for around two millennia in history only one small nation had the true and pure words of God, “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD” (Ps 147:19, 20 cf. Rom. 2:14).
(5) The Bible promises there will be certainty as to the Words of God (2 Peter 1:19; Luke 1:4; Prov 1:23; Prov 22:20-1; Dan12:9-10; 1 John 2:20).
I’d like to deal with these arguments one by one:
1. My supposed idealism
I would like to see, first of all, how my comment (see link above) posits idealism. It seems to me that the commenter is arguing with someone else and is just using my name to address his post.
I would also like to suggest that the commenter is arguing against a straw man here. I don’t think anyone on the non-KJO side is attempting some kind of Platonic idealism where there is a sure word of God off in heaven or somewhere and that what we have is only a limited, imperfect, and flawed facsimile. [I suppose that perhaps someone somewhere has made such an argument, but I don’t think it is the view of anyone who is dealing with the subject seriously, especially from a fundamentalist perspective.]
So on this point, let me just say that I categorically reject idealism and find the charge laughable. I also am a little amazed that my reaction to the argument (“baloney”) is name-calling, but that the charge of idealism is not. But whatever.
2. Was the Bible ever hidden from Israel and did God fail thereby to preserve his word?
On this point I will concede that I am arguing from inference. Certainly such an argument is weaker than a plain declarative statement from the Lord. However, I urge you to read 2 Ki 22 and 2 Chr 34 and judge for yourself. Did Josiah and his men discover something that had lain dormant and unknown for some time, or was it just an old antique they found and thought Josiah might find it interesting? How does Josiah’s reaction square with that interpretation? I think he was in shock.
Notice also that they had to go searching for a prophet at that time to get an answer from the Lord about what they read. They search and can only come up with a woman, Huldah, who tells them judgement is surely coming but not in the days of Josiah. This is a passage egalitarians seize on, but the fact that we have a prophetess, not a prophet ought to speak volumes about the state of the Word in Israel at the time.
Paul the commenter says that Josiah ‘didn’t bother’ from the beginning of his reign to follow the Mosaic command for the king to read the law personally (Dt 17.18). Uhh… how old was Josiah when he began to reign? … 8 … how old was he when the scroll was found? … 18. Are you wanting to claim that this young man knew the command? Then why the unfamiliarity with the law once it was found?
3. Josiah’s reformation evidence the word was known
On this point, let us say that the Word was not unknown completely, but how well was it known? Perhaps they only had the Westcott-Hort text, since Josiah responds to the specific statements of the newly discovered book of the law with such great surprise. Obviously, someone had left out the judgement bit, since Josiah knew nothing about it. That’s that “longer ending” of Deuteronomy causing trouble again!
Ok, I did say I was going to give a more serious reply, didn’t I? Let me simply say here that we are both making arguments from inference here, not explicit revelation. Very hard to make a sticking point without more data. I think my explanation fits the facts better, however.
(4) The presupposition of God promising to make his word generally available to his people
Let’s look at each passage: Dt 30.11-14 … here the revelation is that God’s blessing will attend those who take God’s word to heart and treasure it – it is not a promise that God’s word will be available to every generation of God’s people.
Isa 34.16 – read the context. Isaiah is prophesying judgement on Judah. He says none of these words of prophecy shall fail, look them out in ‘the book of the Lord’ (presumably the Law). No promise to make the word generally available.
Isa 59.21 – again read the context. This is a prophecy of the coming of the Redeemer to Zion, when the nations will come in like a flood and the Spirit of the Lord will stand up against them. That would be Armageddon, I think. The promise is that the words of this prophecy are established, they will not fail, they stand from generation to generation until it happens.
Mt 4.4 – the passage I complained to Kent about… It has nothing to do with the Word being available to every generation, instead it is the Lord replying to Satan in the temptation that man’s life doesn’t consist in having material needs met, but in the life he gets from the Word of God. There is no promise here of generational preservation, just a promise that the Word is the source of life (I say ‘just’, but it is no light promise!).
2 Pt 3.2 – be sure to read 2 Pt 3.1 also. Peter is stating his reason for writing, that the people might remember the words spoken before. No promise of general availability here. Instead, a bit of concern that the word might be forgotten without this reminder.
Jude 1.17 – this is an admonition to remember the words, not a promise that the words will be generally available.
~~~ I really would like to see a passage that explicitly makes the promise that God’s word will generally be available for God’s people. Do you know that God judges his people when they sin? Do you know that God sometimes might judge them by withholding even his word from them? God will even hide his word from people when they are hearing it spoken or seeing it ‘live’ before their eyes (Isa 6.9-10).
(5) The presupposition that God promises certainty as to the words of God
2 Pt 1.19 – a passage often misunderstood! Peter is admonishing his readers to take heed to the written word, it is a more sure word of prophecy even than Peter’s memory of the mount of transfiguration – the written word is more sure than Peter’s experience, so pay attention to it. Nothing about certainty as to the words of God.
Lk 1.4 – Luke says to Theophilus that his purpose in writing is that Theophilus might know the certainty of those things he has been instructed in, i.e., the gospel record, the preaching of the apostles. This is not a promise about certainty of as to the words of God, but a promise of certainty concerning the kerygma, the gospel preaching. (That is not to say we are not certain about the words!)
Pr 1.23 – not a promise about specific words being preserved into perpetuity, but a promise that if you pay attention to wisdom’s reproof, God will make known his words to you (among other things).
Pr 22.20-21 – the writer has given excellent counsels and wisdom so that the reader might know the certainty of the words given, the reliability and wisdom of their meaning. This is a promise that God’s words are true, not certainty as to the words of God.
Dan 12.9-10 … the words are closed and sealed up… what words? the words of the prophecy that Daniel didn’t understand. Daniel inquired after them and God told him, “It’s not for you to know.” This is no promise of certainty as to the words.
~~~ I feel like Dr P’s famous saying “I speak as a fool”! Do I suggest that God’s words are uncertain or that God hasn’t certainly preserved his words? No! But I suggest that the KJO position here and elsewhere overstates its case by straining at Scriptures, attempting to make them say what they do not say.
God can do whatever he wants to do. I am not arguing against the doctrine of preservation. I wholeheartedly embrace it. I just think the KJO understanding of it over reaches by trying to prove too much. The Scriptures themselves to not make the case they are making.
The KJO position is no doubt presuppositional. But it’s presuppositions are not based in revelation, but based in unprovable assumptions the KJO crowd makes. The opposite view is likewise based on presuppositions. What we have here is a case of dueling presuppositions. Let’s let the Scriptures speak truly and plainly in all our argumentation about this. Let’s not press more meaning on the passages than they contain.
If you can make the KJO argument from the statements of Scripture, have at it. So far it hasn’t been done.
Anything else… any other kind of argument… making Scriptures say what they do not say… IS BALONEY!