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The Strange Case of the Inconsistent Mr. White

Christopher Thomas Doctrine of Scripture Leave a Comment

In a previous post, James White denies the existence of Scripture, I pointed out that Mr. White’s denial of an objective, universal, invariant standard was the logical equivalent of one denying the existence of Scripture. Now of course I am sure his sycophants and the PIA himself will take exception to the article. But sadly for them, the consequence of his denial of the existence of such a standard is inescapable.

But it is even worse for Mr. White. Back in October I stated the following:

Mr. White threw a bit of a fit on his October 16, 2020 episode because I rightly pointed out that Mr. White in rejecting the historic understanding of Chapter 1 Section 8 of the confession logically rejects all of Chapter 1. The long diatribe in the link is Mr. White claiming he is confessional on Chapter 1. But this is simply a lie. And we will see how his lie is no different than leftist judges who claim the constitution is a living document.

When it comes to constitutional interpretation there are essentially two schools of thought. The Originalists and the Living Constitutionalists. We will look at this article to get a better understanding of these two views: On Originalism in Constitutional Interpretation.

Originalism is a theory of the interpretation of legal texts, including the text of the Constitution. Originalists believe that the constitutional text ought to be given the original public meaning that it would have had at the time that it became law. The original meaning of constitutional texts can be discerned from dictionaries, grammar books, and from other legal documents from which the text might be borrowed. It can also be inferred from the background legal events and public debate that gave rise to a constitutional provision.

On Originalism in Constitutional Interpretation
by Steven G. Calabresi

Living constitutionalists believe that the meaning of the constitutional text changes over time, as social attitudes change, even without the adoption of a formal constitutional amendment pursuant to Article V of the Constitution. Living constitutionalists believe that racial segregation was constitutional from 1877 to 1954, because public opinion favored it, and that it became unconstitutional only as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) – a case in which they think the Supreme Court changed and improved the Constitution.

Ibid

The difference between people like Mr. White, Dan Wallace, Bruce Metzger, Michael Kruger, et al, and those of us that hold to the confessional view of Scripture is that our view is the Originalist view of the Confession. While the aforementioned men hold to a Living Confessional view regarding Chapter 1. We will look at two sections of the confession in chapter one, sections 8 & 10, and show how Mr. White rejects them along with the logical consequences of rejecting them.

8._____The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.
( Romans 3:2; Isaiah 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39; 1 Corinthians 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 28; Colossians 3:16 )

2LBCF 1.8

Mr. White specifically rejects the Reformed meaning and understanding of the bolded words. To properly understand these words we turn to Garnet H. Milne’s work, Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture. In the section entitled: Westminster and the meaning of ‘purity’, he discusses three types of purity which are: Relative Purity (WCF 24.4,5), Absolute Purity (WCF 2.1), & Preserved Purity (1.8). For our discussion we will focus on Preserved Purity and its meaning. And I will quote from Milne’s section.

As Westminster divine Anthony Burges[s] (d.1664) put it speaking of the extant Scriptures: ‘Divines doe well observe, that the Scripture may be considered, either quoad formale externum, in respect of the outward forme, as it is a writing; or quoad formale internum, in respect of the inward forme and sense of it, as it is the Word of God’.[214]

Anthony Burges, The Difficulty of, and The Encouragements to a Reformation (London: Thomas Underhill, 1643), 7.

The proof texts for Answer 4 of the Larger Catechism, which gives the purity of the Scriptures as corroboration that they are the Word of God, are Psalm 12:6 and Psalm 119:40. These both speak of the purity of the promises of God. This purity is generally explained as an absence of falsehood.

See the English Annotations: Annotations upon All the Books of the Old and New Testament: This Third, above the First and Second, Edition so Enlarged, As They Make an Entire Commentary on the Sacred Scripture: The Like Never before Published in English. Wherein the Text is Explained, Doubts Resolved, Scriptures Parallel’d, and Various Readings Observed; By the Labour of Certain Learned Divines Thereunto Appointed, and Therein Employed, As is Expressed in the Preface (London: Evan Tyler, 1657); Dutch Annotations: Theodore Haak (translator), The Dutch Annotations upon the Whole Bible: Or, All the Holy Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Together with, and According to Their Own Translation of All the Text: As Both the One and the Other were Ordered and Appointed by the Synod of Dort, 1618. and Published by Authority, 1637 (London: John Rothwell, Joshua Kirton, and Richard Tomlins, 1657); John [or Giovanni] Diodati, Pious and Learned Annotations upon the Holy Bible (London: Nicholas Fussell, 1664); and Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Whole Bible (Edinburgh: Andrew Anderson, 1700) on Psalm 12:6-7 and Psalm 119:140, the second proof text for the Larger Catechism.

William Perkins admonishes: Let no man thinke I heere give the least allowance to Anabaptisticall fancies and revelations, which are nothing, but dreames of their own, or illusions of the Divell, for they contemne both humane learning, and the studie of the scripture, and trust wholy to revelations of the spirit; but God’s spirit worketh not but upon the foundation of the word. In light of the highest place reserved for the written Word of God in the religious epistemology of the Westminster Puritans, it would appear extremely unlikely that they would have failed to give an explanation of how to use impure original language texts as the only rule of faith and life, if they believed that the words of Scripture had not been preserved in their original form. It seems implausible that they would have remained silent if they meant that God had only partly kept pure His inspired Word for the contemporary church. And if they only intended to say that God had just kept pure necessary doctrines, they would have given an explanation from Scripture for this limitation.

Milne, Kept Pure?

James Ussher Ussher (1581-1656) is widely acknowledged as a primary source of the Westminster theology. He was appointed to sit as a member of the Assembly although he declined the invitation. Mitchell also refers to Ussher as one who supports his contention that the WCF meant to imply only that the purity of the sense of Scripture would be maintained and not the words.[237] Ussher, however, is on record as saying that the entire Scriptures in form as well as in sense have been preserved in all ages. Ussher’s fifteenth proof that the Scriptures are the Word of God is a statement of the complete preservation of Scripture: the marvellous preservation of the Scriptures. Though none in time be so ancient, no none so much oppugned: yet God hath still by his providence preserved them and every part of them

Responding to the question: ‘Why must the interpretation of words be had out of the originall languages?’, Ussher writes: ‘Because in them onely the Scriptures are, for the letter, to be held authenticall’

Had he meant that the doctrine or sense and not the letter had been preserved, he would have said ‘for the sense or doctrine’. He adds that the Latin translation approved by Trent ‘is no further to be received of true Christians, then [than] it agreeth with the Originall of the Hebrew and Greek Texts’.

In response to another sceptical voice which asks how can one get a true understanding of Scripture if there are different readings in the Hebrew and Greek copies, Ussher writes that there are very few alternative readings in the Hebrew text and though there are more in the Greek most may be resolved, and if they cannot (something he does not absolutely affirm) the rest of Scripture is sufficiently clear so that the truth cannot be obscured.[241]Ussher, A Body of Divinity, 24.

Much more could be quoted, but it is unnecessary to do so as the men above make it clear that Mr. White’s general preservation and puzzle pieces analogy are inconsistent with an Originalist understanding of 1.8 of the confession. Furthermore, in his dealings with Dr. Riddle, Mr. White has stated that if those of us who hold to the Confessional View are right in our understanding of what preservation means in 1.8, then he adamantly rejects it. And since for a proper understanding of 1.8 one must go to the Reformers, who taught a Preserved Purity and not a general preservation, then Mr. White does in fact reject section 1.8. However, Stephen L. Anderson does not and is therefore more confessional than Mr. White.

Now we come to 1.10 of our confession which Mr. White has rejected on two occassions.

10.____The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.
( Matthew 22:29, 31, 32; Ephesians 2:20; Acts 28:23)

2 LBCF

James White has twice now rejected the epistemic authority of Scripture over all human reasoning which includes how we reason about Greek manuscripts and their variants. Back in the Reformed Pub in October of 2015, Mr. White dropped in on a post dealing with the Longer Ending of Mark and scurried away when he tried to claim that “the discovery of the papyri changed everything” somehow invalidated the work of Dean John William Burgon on the Longer Ending of Mark but was refuted when I pointed out the fact that the papyri have no bearing on Mark 16 because they do not cover Mark 16. It was during this exchange that Mr. White rejected the idea that Scripture is our final authority in evaluating all truth claims. He then engaged in the same logical fallacy that evolutionists use. Namely equivocating between observable science and historical science. The former is what chemistry, heart surgery, programming, physics et al fall under. The latter, cannot observe historical events and can never be sure of any of its conclusions, which is something the more honest people in this field admit. Evolution is an example, though a bad one, of historical science. Historical science can only come to a proper conclusion when it begins its reasoning from Scripture. This should be obvious to any Christian for this is how we know that evolutionists are wrong in their interpretation of the historical evidence. Further, he rejected the idea that the standard we must use to evaluate the claims of textual critics and their choices of Greek mss along with textual variants is Scripture itself. Which means for Mr. White, his own autonomous human reasoning is more authoritative than Scripture. Furthermore, as we can see in Section 1.10 above, to be confessional one must hold Scripture as the supreme judge by which doctrines of men are to be examined.

You can read the interaction in the Pub here and it begins on page 5.

The second time he rejected Scripture as the final authority in evaluating truth claims has been linked up above.

In conclusion, Mr. White in rejecting the Originalist interpretation of the confession, in rejecting the Reformed Doctrine of Providential Preservation as taught in the confession and in the works that our confession is based upon, and in his repeated rejection of evaluating by Scripture the philosophy and methodology of Restorationist Textual Criticism, it is obvious that Mr. White rejects chapter 1 of the confession, its foundation which is Scripture, and cannot, without being logically inconsistent, claim to hold to chapter 1 nor can he claim to hold to Scripture as his final authority without being inconsistent. However, Stephen Anderson affirms everything in Chapter one as originally understood by the Reformers. So yes, regarding chapter 1, Steven is more confessional than Mr. White.

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