The Philosophical Failure of RTC

In Textual Criticism by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

Or Why RTC Advocates Love Trivialities

One of the common tactics of Restorationist Textual Criticism (RTC) Advocates when trying to refute the Confessional View of Scripture (CVS) is to bring up the extant manuscript evidence.  This type of “refutation” is meant to turn the focus of the discussion to the evidence in the hopes of showing that the Textus Receptus is corrupt and away from the underlying philosophy which is the true issue.  In reality this is merely a focusing on trivialities.  Now that isn’t to say that manuscript evidence is trivial or that it should be discounted.  But manuscript evidence, like all evidence isn’t neutral nor does it exist in a vacuum.  It must be evaluated.  But how are we to evaluate manuscript evidence?  As Christians we are to evaluate the Greek manuscripts (mss) and their variants in the same way we are commanded by God in Scripture to evaluate all of reality:  by Scripture.  Now a Popular Internet Apologist (PIA) has stated since 2015 that evaluating the Greek mss and their variants by Scripture is circular reasoning.  This is a very strange charge from Mr. White as he claims to be a follower of Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen’s *presuppositional apologetics.  And he therefore should be aware that all appeals to a final authority are inherently circular.

Final Authority, Inherent Circularity, & Skepticism

Anytime someone makes a knowledge claim, we have every right to ask, “How do you know that?”  And usually we are provided with a series of arguments that are offered as proof for that knowledge claim.  But The Skeptic doesn’t stop there.  The Skeptic goes further and asks the question that most people don’t think to ask, “And how do you know those arguments are true?”  At this point the game is on and we as Christians must be ready to answer The Skeptic.  So let’s turn to the foundation for how we as Christians are to evaluate all reality:  the Scriptures.

Matthew 5:21, 22:  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:  But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

In verse 21 Christ is referring to the traditional teaching of Scripture by the rabbis which at the time had corrupted God’s Law by making their oral traditions more authoritative than Scripture.  In this respect, Judaism is very similar to Roman Catholicism and RTC.  All three seek to replace the authority of God’s word with a human authority.  But in verse 22, Christ condemns this method, and in saying, “But I say unto you”, redirects final authority back to God’s word.  In this and similar passages we find the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture being taught.  Even if you’ve never studied this issue before, it should be obvious that what Christ is saying here and in similar passages is that there is no authority for determining truth higher than God.  In passages such as the following, the Scriptures makes it clear that God’s word is truth and is a reflection of God himself.

John 14:16 Jesus saith unto him, I am the waythe truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truththy word is truth.

1 John 5:6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

Or to simplify, Scripture is the foundation by which we evaluate all truth claims.  And how do we know that?  Because Scripture says so.  Now, to the Christian, this is enough and should remind one of that famous VBS song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible, tells me so.”  But to non-Christans and Christians who reason as if they are lost, such as RTC Advocates, they condemn this as being circular.  But this shows a philosophical ignorance on their part.  It doesn’t matter which final authority you appeal to, because the only thing that can authorize a final authority(A) is that final authority(A).  But if that which authorizes your final authority(A) is different than your final authority(non-A) from your first final authority(A), then that different Final authority(non-A) replaces your previous final authority(A).  And that new final authority (non-A) must authorize itself.

So how do we know if our final authority is the right one?  We know Scripture is the right one because Scripture tells us so.  This doctrine is expounded under the sufficiency of scripture and under the term αυτο-πιστος.  And we find it in our confessions in chapter 1 expressed as follows:

WCF/2LBCF 1.4 The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God(αυτο-πιστος)

WCF/2LBCF 1.5 We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

Now of course secularists will not abide any authority higher than their own mind.  And those of pagan religions have their own “final authority”.  So how do we know who’s right in such circumstances?  Again, we know Scripture is right because it says so.  But assume Scripture is not a true final authority, what happens?

Inductive reasoning is an excellent example for evaluating what happens if we reject Scripture as our final authority for all knowledge claims.

Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying some evidence for the truth of the conclusion; this is in contrast to deductive reasoning. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument may be probable, based upon the evidence given.[1] Many dictionaries define inductive reasoning as the derivation of general principles from specific observations, though there are many inductive arguments that do not have that form.[2] – from Wikipedia

Let’s take a simple example:  flipping a coin.  What happens when you flip a coin?  Does it hover in midair for a few seconds while George Washington scratches his head as he decides whether or not to land heads or tails or stand straight up by landing in that crack in the cement?  No, it spins up, and spins down until it lands either heads up or down or lands sitting in a crack if one is nearby and you aim right.  But how do you know what happens when it lands?  You may say, well because that’s just the way coins behave when flipped.  But how do you know that’s true of 1) all coins, 2) all coins at all times?  Did you use the TARDIS to travel throughout time and visit every instance of a coin being flipped?  Obviously not, as the Time Lords don’t allow humans to use TARDISes.  In reality, you assumed that the coin will behave in the general way coins do because in the past when a coin was flipped that is how it behaved.  But this is begging the question.  You can’t assume that the future will be like the past because that is the very thing that must be proved.  Namely, that the way things behaved in the past is how they will behave in the future under the same conditions.  Philosophers have been struggling with and giving up on this problem for centuries.  So how do we as Christians know that the future will be like the past?  That’s easy, Scripture says so.

Genesis 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

When will the earth cease to remain?  When Christ returns.  So barring the return of Christ we can have confidence that scientific experiments, like coin flipping, when performed the same way and under the same conditions, will ALWAYS have the same results.  You see, we also know Scripture is the only sure foundation for all reasoning because it is the only final authority that makes reality intelligible.  When you reject it as your final authority, you are rejecting all that goes with it:  inductive reasoning, universal class concepts, logical absolutes, etc.  And we need a final authority that comes from an universal, absolute, omniscience, omniepresent, and omnipotent being that is both transcendent and immanent.  Only such a being can communicate to us the nature of reality and the principles by which it operates.

Ignoring the Real Issue

Now why all this talk of final authorities?  Because this is the real issue in the textual debate.  And it is an issue that RTC Advocates go to great lengths to avoid.  A perfect example of this can be found in this recent post by Dr. Elijah Hixosn:  The Greek Manuscripts of the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7–8)?  Dr. Riddle has already made Swiss cheese of it here:  WM 149: Hixson, the CJ, and Roman Catholic Provenance.  My addition to Dr. Riddle’s fine refutation would be to point out that Dr. Hixson repeatedly engages in arbitrariness by pushing his unargued biases against the TR and he constantly makes the logical fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc when he repeatedly claims that newly found older texts containing the Comma Johanneum do so solely because it was added to those texts long after they were produced in order to conform to Erasmus’ 1522 edition.  With Dr. Hixson it’s bargain bin day at the Dollar Fallacy Store.  So why do Elijah Hixson, Peter Gurry, Tommy Wasserman, Dirk Jongkind, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Metzger, Kurt Aland, Daniel Wallace, James White, et al, completely ignore the philosophical issue and instead try to focus on textual issues all the while misrepresenting why we hold to the authentic Greek & Hebrew texts, treating the extant mss as if they represent the total content of all mss ever produced which is impossible to prove without recourse to the autographs, behaving as hypocrites when it comes to the textual evidence for the last twelve verse of Mark, and always refusing to provide an exegetical argument from the authentic Greek and Hebrew texts disproving the Reformed Doctrine of Providential Preservation?  Because they cannot refute the biblical philosophy which undergirds the Confessional View of Scripture nor can they provide a Biblical argument for their own unbiblical  philosophy along with whichever methodology they choose to apply to the Greek mss and their variants.  And that’s why all their protestations and attempt to focus on the textual issue are nothing more than red herrings.  So how should we answer their folly?

I’ve dealt with his before in such posts as, Well, What’s Your Methodology? I’ll repeat some of it here.  First, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” We obey this verse by not assuming with them that their philosophy and their approach to the textual evidence is correct.  Anything that doesn’t comport with Scripture is by definition not true.  And RTC as demonstrated in a host of posts, books, audios, etc., at this site and others has been demonstrated time and again to be at odds with what Scripture clearly teaches.  Second, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”  When they engage in textual arguments we point out such things as:  the textual evidence is incomplete and it is impossible to prove it is representative of all Greek mss ever produced unless we have the autographs, we have historical documents showing that some Greek mss were lost or destroyed during the Reformation, and even their own catalogue lists missing Greek mss, that we have no idea of the origin of the vast majority of mss, the dates given to the mss cannot be objectively proven, & that evidence is not neutral and must be evaluated through a Biblical lens which they reject.

What is Required of RTC Advocates Going Forward

So what must RTC Advocates provide going forward if they expect any of their textual arguments to be taken seriously?

  1. They must provide an exegetical argument from the authentic Greek (TR) & Hebrew (Bomberg Hebrew Bible) texts that refutes the Reformed Doctrines of Providential Preservation & the Sufficiency of Scripture
  2. They must then provide an exegetical argument from the same authentic texts for their approach to the Greek mss; both their philosophy (which people such as Tommy Wasserman said should include approaching Scripture for textual criticism as if God did not exist) and their methodology.  They must have a Biblical foundation for both.
  3. Their arguments must comport with the doctrines taught in Scripture and cannot result in logical conclusions such as that the Holy Ghost has lied to his people concerning the text of Scripture for nearly 1800 yrs.  Which is the logical conclusion of RTC and why RTC is an heresy among other reasons.
  4. The above arguments cannot be self-refuting

These are just some of the things RTC advocates must provide before they expect their “arguments” to be considered anything other than mental onanism.  I won’t be holding my breath.

*The best introductory course on on Presuppositional Apologetics is Dr. Bahnsen’s Practical Apologetics.  It provides one with a simple and effective schema for engaging in an analysis of an idea from a biblical standpoint.

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