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.

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Why the KJV Debate Won’t End Soon

I’ve lived long enough to see a variety of phases of the King James Only controversy.  You might think of it like the phases of the moon.  The debate waxes and wanes.  Fifteen or twenty years ago, the debate really grew legs as online forums and blogs took off.  The debate had raged prior to this through books and papers published by respectable institutions of higher learning.  But the rise of the Internet and the popularity of blogs and forums in the early 2000s brought the debate into the living room.  As a result, there began to be some significant movement in one direction or the other.  Believers who had only seen one side of the issue found themselves woefully unprepared for some of the arguments coming from the other side.  There were casualties on both sides of the issue, though the trend certainly favored the anti-King James Only position. 

But the ultimate result of these online interactions was that both sides became more entrenched against each other.  Like most controversies, the debate ebbs and flows.  The rise of Facebook, Twitter, and (even more so) YouTube expanded the debate, challenging a fresh generation to again examine their assumptions and (in more than a few cases) switch their allegiances.  I have not looked to see if there has been any kind of scientific study to see where the majority have landed.  Anecdotally, I would guess that more have left the KJVO position than have come to it.  Advocates for an eclectic text show a great deal of talent for video production, and people prefer a 15-minute video to a longer, in-depth book or blog post.  But once again, as the debate picks up, parties become more entrenched in their position and more unwilling to listen to the other side.

Nobody should think that the migration has been a one-way street.  I have become good friends with a pastor who recently came to embrace the King James Version, who had before used every other version but the KJV.  The rise of the “Standard Sacred Text” position and Jeff Riddle certainly indicates that the anti-KJV faction isn’t running up the score on the KJVOs (note: I’m not saying that Riddle is KJVO – he isn’t).  I have friends in the ministry who embrace the Critical Text (and many versions as a result), who have also admitted to me that there is a significant shift away from the Critical Text towards the TR and the idea of a settled text. 

So, those who think that we are on the cusp of putting the debate to rest forever should probably rein in their horses.  It can be deceptive to spend hours a day on Twitter, where the debate is pretty one-sided.  Many believers stay off Twitter altogether.  I would say that you really don’t get fair representation of both sides of the issue there.  And the proponents of the Critical Text will have a tough time conveying their message to their targeted audience if they are relying on Twitter to do it. 

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Every Word Preservation

Recently, an acquaintance asked me why I believe God preserved the words.  He believes God has preserved the message of the Bible but doesn’t see any place in Scripture where God promised to keep the words.  I was grateful for the opportunity to explain why I believe God has kept every word, and I am happy to share it with you as well with some edits, modifications, and additions.

Hey brother, I am glad you asked me why I believe every word of the Bible is preserved rather than just dismissing me as an ignoramus.  I always appreciate the opportunity to set forth my reasons for a position I hold dear, and I am always grateful to those who will give me a hearing.  I recognize that the most vocal (at least online) Christians deny that the words are kept.  I try to take the positions I hold on grounds that I can defend from Scripture.  Hopefully, this will help you to understand my thinking on this crucial issue.

Here goes!

I am arguing that God has preserved every word of Scripture perfectly.  Variations of this argument have been made by Kent Brandenburg (15+ years), the Van Kleecks, and Jeff Riddle.  The Van Kleecks use the term “Standard Sacred Text,” Jeff Riddle refers to it as the confessional text, and others call it “confessional Bibliology.”  I am in basic agreement with this position.  I was also greatly helped by Douglas Wilson on this issue, particularly when it comes to methodology.  I draw heavily from the London Baptist Confession and (to a lesser degree) the Westminster Confessions as representative of the historic belief of the Christian church through the ages.  The LBC statement on the Holy Scriptures is available here:

I do not believe that preservation rests in the English.  God has preserved the words He gave, so (in general) the Hebrew of the OT and the Greek of the NT (Matthew 5:18).

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