Here’s Hoping for a Solid Debate on the Text Issue

On February 18, James White will debate Thomas Ross on the text issue.  You can learn more about the details of the debate here.  I look forward to the debate for several reasons.  Let me tell you how:

First, my appreciation for James White

I understand if some of my KJVO friends don’t share my enthusiasm for James White.  He has handled some of us pretty roughly over the years.  But I do have an appreciation for Dr. White.  I have had the privilege of meeting him; I have had the opportunity to get to know a fine young man planting a church in Salt Lake out of Apologia Church, and we share several mutual friends.  Despite several significant differences, I believe Dr. White to be a brother in Christ.  That said, here are a couple of things I appreciate about Dr. White.

First, I live and serve the Lord in Utah.  I cannot express the value of Dr. White’s ministry in this state.  For many years, he has traveled to Utah to preach the gospel to the LDS and engage them in debates or discussions.  I have to say that he has set a tremendous example for the way we ought to engage these neighbors.  My good friend, Pastor Jason Wallace, hosts Dr. White almost annually and has held a variety of debates at the University of Utah – including one infamous debate with a nut-wing professor who attempted to get Dr. White to drink antifreeze on stage.  Dr. White has shown a willingness to engage unbelievers from nearly every form of unbelief, but I believe his best work has come from his engagement with the LDS.  I had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion he had with Alma Allred, which I consider to be one of the most important public discussions with a Mormon in the past decade. 

Second, I appreciate Dr. White’s willingness to continue to engage on the text issue.  Yes, I recognize that he wants to defeat the position I hold dear.  But I am grateful that he believes we are still worthy of debate.   

Third, Dr. White believes in presuppositional apologetics, as do I.  I consider this key in the debate with Thomas.  We should take a presuppositional approach to preservation. 

Second, the opportunity to hear a Biblical case for textual criticism

I am excited to hear Dr. White present a presuppositional case for textual criticism.  I have searched the Internet, hoping to find someone who would make the case from Scripture for textual criticism, and so far have come up empty.  Perhaps one of my readers can point me to a book, YouTube video, or website that lays out the case from Scripture for textual criticism, but I have yet to hear one.

For this reason, I have high hopes for the upcoming debate between White and Ross.  The debate resolution is, “The Legacy Standard Bible, as a representative of modern English translations based upon the UBS/NA text, is superior to the KJV, as a representative of TR-based Bible translations.”  Dr. White is taking the affirmative.  As Dr. White is a professional debater and understands the rules of debate, I look forward to hearing him say from Scripture what God has promised to preserve and how God, in His Word, says that this preservation will take place.  And since Dr. White is committed to textual criticism, I anticipate that he will set forth the Biblical principles behind textual criticism as part of his overall defense of the LSB. 

Typically in debates on the text issue, the TR-only position comes under withering attack.  Those who take a “confessional” position offer a Scriptural defense; that defense gets dismissed or shot down, but advocates for the critical text offer no Bible in defense of their position.  Several times, I have patiently attempted to defend my position and answer the objections of those who interact with me (such as a recent exchange with the Twitter handle @BereanBarometer on my own Twitter page @DaveMallinak).  But when I have requested that my adversary provide a Biblical basis for his position, the crickets start scratching their itch. 

Rarely does the critical/eclectic text position attempt to make a Biblical case for its position.  Maybe never.  I have not found where the case has been made (as I said earlier).  Since, in debate, the affirmative has the burden of proof, I am hopeful that Dr. White will do so.  One cannot claim that the Critical Text is superior to the Received Text without explaining from the Bible why textual criticism is the Biblical approach to preservation and the confessional approach is unbiblical (or at least “less” Biblical). 

Here’s hoping.

Third, my appreciation for Thomas Ross

I have known Thomas for many years now and have grown to appreciate him.  I have seen the way he has grown in grace over the years.  Probably the most annoying quality about Thomas is that he is such a big brain.  I have always dreaded debating with him because I know he is way out of my league intellectually. 

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of sitting under Thomas as he taught the Biblical position on sanctification.  He did tremendous work.  Thomas is always scholarly but has not always been accessible.  So, when it came time for Thomas to present his material, I expected to hear more of the same.  Was I ever surprised.  It is evident to me that Thomas has put a lot of work into improving his communication skill, and that work is beginning to pay off now. 

This past year, my oldest son moved to Bethel Baptist in El Sobrante, where Thomas is a faithful member and layman in the church.  I am grateful for Thomas’ influence in John’s life and appreciate his desire to honor God in all things. 

Finally, my hope that more will embrace a presuppositional approach to preservation

I hope that this article doesn’t come across as tongue-in-cheek.  I certainly don’t intend to be facetious with what I am saying.  I sincerely hope Dr. White will show us how a presuppositional approach to preservation leads to textual criticism and the eclectic text.  But if I am being completely transparent and honest, I don’t believe that textual criticism is consistent with a presuppositional approach to Scripture.  I see it as problematic that any new discovery of ancient manuscripts can cause a passage of Scripture to require review as to authenticity. 

Confessional Bibliology (the position I hold) has made some noise recently on the debate front, thanks to Jeff Riddle and Peter Van Kleeck.  I hope this ongoing debate will help more see the Biblical basis for believing that God has kept His Word pure in every generation and that we can and should believe in a settled text.

2 thoughts on “Here’s Hoping for a Solid Debate on the Text Issue

  1. Berean Barometer

    Berean Barometer here:

    Jeff Riddle the leading proponent of the Confessional Bibiology position today rejects King James Onylism and makes allowances for use of translations like the Geneva Bible, the MEV and the NKJV, several writers in the book he edited “Why I preach from the Received Text” also reject and speak directly against King James Onylisms. Do you? My position is actually more in line with Confessional Bibliology than yours. So its interesting that you would speak as if you hold to a confessional position and that I hold some contradictory position to Confessional Bibliology.

    No position on the issue is explicitly “scriptural”. Where did you read in the scriptures that God would preserve his words in the TR? There is just as much scriptural support to say that all his words are preserved among all the different manuscripts as there is to say its only preserved among the TR family or the King James Version. No single position is explicitly scriptural, all of the arguments about identification of proper Text and Translation are by their very nature extra biblical. So of course your going to get criquets, because God didn’t inspire a manual in scriptures for determining textual variants or for inerrant identifying all of his words with absolute certainty. You yourself in our twitter exchange admitted that you have variants among the TR editions that you “cannot resolve” [your words]. There is a huge leap from “God will preserve all his words” to “they are in the TR” to pretend like that leap is explicitly scriptural is naive.

    All that being said, of course I cannot provide a scriptural defense of my holding to the TR in our twitter exchange. I hold to the TR corpus out of my own conscience and study. That being said, I don’t need to prove my position in order to point out contradictions in yours. You claim God promises certainty about all the words but immediately turn around and admit uncertainty among the TR editions. My questions on twitter were to draw that out.
    My “cricket silence” does not make your position right.

    Im not quite sure you really understood the intention of my engagement with you. Which was to make you realize you can either hold to Scrivener, or the KJV. Not both. You can say Scrivener is the right one (or some other TR edition) which would mean the KJV is mostly right, or vice versa. But to affirm both is contradictory. Which one is the final authority? A Greek TR edition or the English KJV? I’ve rejected Ruckmanism and holding the KJV as the final authority and have come to embrace the actual protestant confessional position which is that the Hebrew and Greek has been preserved and kept pure in all ages and is found in the mature protestant TR editions. The King James Version (or any translation for that matter) is NOT promised by God to be perfect or inerrant. [BTW if you say its a “faithful” translation and really mean perfect/without error please just say so because you seem to play word games to avoid calling the KJV ‘inerrant’ presumably because you recognize that might not sound good.

    I would love to see you actually move to a Confessional Position, which would require the abandonment of elevating the King James to a place of being unquestionable. Unless you already have then by all means please say so. Do you think the King James could be improved on? Do you think it’s possible that the KJV has any errors in it? Or do you have a theological apriori that prevents you from entertaining these as possibilities?

    As someone who came from and vigorously defended that the “KJV is the exclusive preserved word of God for English speaking people” and abandoning that position, I am tired of seeing King James Onlyism/Ruckmanism pretending to be TR adherence. The truth of the matter is that Ruckman understood that the KJV does not agree with any printed Greek text. Ruckman believed that the KJV was God sorting out all the variants among the Greek TR editions. When I ask you what you do to reconcile Scrivener lacking the Amen at the end of Ephesians and the KJV having it you essentially said that you typically default to the KJV. How are you really different from Ruckman exactly then?

    There is no room for believing the KJV is perfect and also holding that we have a perfect preserved Greek text, if there is show the perfect Greek text that agrees completely with the perfect KJV text: . There is room for believing the KJV is the best translation of the best Greek text; this is a position thats reasonable and defendable, But there is no consistent position that can hold both the perfection of the KJV and any TR text, pick one side and then maybe there can be reasonable discussion. But if you are going to keep insisting that we need confidence about the words but then expressing lack of confidence between TR variants, I don’t see how there can be any reasonable conversation.


    1. I am out of town, so I have to respond with my thumbs. So this response won’t be as thorough as I would like. I’m fine with a little heat, but would still point out that you aren’t giving me a Biblical answer for what you think God promises to preserve and (more importantly) how He says He will do this.

      But I will try to answer your questions.

      1) Despite the fact that your Ruckmanite detector is set on high alert, I still deny the charge.

      2) I wrote this article in 2007. That’s a few years ago.

      3) As I have explained, I believe perfect preservation is a heart commitment. I see a big difference between saying “God has perfectly preserved His Words” and saying “I can answer for every variant.” I believe God has kept every Word. I am comfortable with saying that Scriveners is the Word of God. I wish the Amen was at the end of Ephesians. But that doesn’t keep me from embracing Scriveners as equal to the originals.

      4) My reasons for deferring to the King James have more to do with historic use and my commitment to an ecclesiastical translation, as I believe God preserves His Word through faithful expository preaching – much as Paul describes in 2 Timothy 2:1-2.

      4) I reject the notion that the words of God are scattered throughout the various editions of the TR. I don’t think God sent us on a scavenger hunt for the authentic words.

      5) If the claim that God has kept every word in one place requires me to also say, “and I know what every word should be,” that would be an evidentialist approach to preservation. To say that God has kept every word in one place, but I can’t answer for every difficulty is to express my confidence in God to keep His words. At least, that is the way I am approaching this issue.



Comments are closed.