Archive for April, 2015

Defining "Responsibility" for Leighton Flowers

April 28, 2015

I was listening to Professor Leighton Flowers talk about “responsibility,” (mp3 – around 29 minutes into the debate) and he noticed that he tried to define it as “able to respond,” as in being able to respond positively to God’s commands and exhortations. That definition is just fanciful.

The term “responsible” actually means “answerable” or “accountable” – in other words, it’s about the fact that the person is going to have to answer or respond for what he does. It means that the person will have to face the consequences of his actions. When we say that man is “responsible,” we’re not talking about some hypothetical philosophical ability to do something, but instead we’re talking about the fact that man will have to give an account for all his actions before the Judge of All the Earth on judgment day.

Inability to do what is right is consistent with responsibility for doing what is wrong, because “responsibility” doesn’t imply some very specific kind of hypothetical philosophical ability to have done otherwise, but rather it implies that the person will be punished for his sins – unless the person has a penal substitute in the person of Jesus Christ.

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Matt Slick Errs on Textual Transmission / Textual Criticism Again

April 13, 2015

Matt Slick has again (The Bible Thumping Wingnut, Episode 61, around 30 minutes into the episode) erred on the topic of textual criticism.

Unfortunately, Mr. Slick seems to be confused about the transmission of the New Testament compared to the translation of the Old Testament. His comment about adding up numbers seems to be based on something Mr. Slick has heard about the process used by the Masoretes (and it doesn’t even appear to be accurate regarding their process). It does not describe the Christian process, especially not in the early Christian period. Early Christian textual transmission was, as far as we know, not done by professional scribes and did not include letter-counting techniques (such as those later used by the Masoretes) to ensure the reliability of the copies. These facts don’t undermine the reliability of the New Testament text, but making errors in this area may undermine the other valid points that Mr. Slick is trying to offer.

Additionally, Mr. Slick repeated the same error regarding how textual variants are counted (which we already corrected here).

It’s great that Mr. Slick is going to be debating a Muslim on the divinity of Jesus soon, but it seems likely that these issues of textual transmission will crop up in apologetics with Muslims (as they frequently do), and it would be good for one of Mr. Slick’s friends to help get him straight on these issues before then.

*** Updated 4/13/2015

By the way, Mr. Slick should probably update his own web pages once he realizes his mistake. This same repeated error about how to count variants appears on at least the following pages of carm.org :

https://carm.org/bible-text-manuscript-tree

That same page also claims “Furthermore, the New Testament is approximately 99.5% textually pure. This means that of all the manuscripts in existence they agree completely 99.5% of the time.” That’s also not the case.

https://school.carm.org/amember/files/demo2/bible/reliable.htm

This page claims “The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure.” Even if Mr. Slick decides he has some insight into textual transmission, he should presumably harmonize his own pages.

This page also claims (similar to Mr. Slick’s comments on the show): “Similarly, the Greek writers of the New Testament would copy the biblical manuscripts. By default, every letter also has a numeric value. When the copies were done, the copyists would add up the numeric values of the words copied and compare them to the original copy. If there was an error, the copy was destroyed and a new one was begun. This was done with both the Hebrew and Greek writings of the Bible. Therefore, the Bible was copied with extreme care.” That’s not an accurate depiction of the New Testament transmission. It seems to be taken from some information regarding the extreme care the Masoretes took in copying the Old Testament, but even then it’s not quite right.

The page also mentions the accuracy of the Isaiah scroll in the Dead Sea scrolls compared to the Masoretic text. It’s true that the texts were very close. Not all the scrolls share that same closeness, however, especially in Jeremiah. So, it might be good to provide some additional information and caveats regarding the reliability of the Masoretic textual transmission.

Does Religion Poison Everything?

April 7, 2015

One of the claims of the new atheists is that “Religion Poisons Everything.” This has been the subject of a number of debates. Typically, the non-atheist will point out folks like Stalin and Mao were not religious and yet were responsible for enormous harm. Thus, while religious people may also cause harm, the harm of atheism are even greater, certainly on a per capita basis. Some folks will also go farther and point out that the methodology used by atheists is fundamentally flawed – they don’t have any controlled comparative data upon which to make their conclusion. All of these are legitimate criticisms of the atheistic assertion – but it occurred to me that Christians are missing an opportunity or two here.

Religion affects everything. We should be willing to concede that it does, or at least should, affect everything. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a Christian cyclist will use a different kind of brakes, but religion (especially the true Christian religion) is a worldview. It affects everything – or should. The does not mean we all try to wear the same kind of sandals and robes that Jesus and the apostles did, or the same kind of leather that Adam and Eve wore. We certainly don’t dress or eat like John the Baptist regularly. Still, religion as a worldview to does touch on and affect everything.

The term “poison” is a pejorative term – a value judgment. Obviously, atheists who object to the Biblical worldview are going to see those aspects of influence as “poison,” but they are wrong to view them that way. As for the things that we commonly agree are “poison,” we call on the atheists to distinguish between the sinners trying to live out the worldview and the worldview and the worldview itself. It is sin that poisons everything, while the gospel begins to correct that.

John Owen on the Theonomy Debate between Joel McDurmon and Jordan Hall

April 4, 2015

John Owen, Works, Volume 8 (“Sermons to the Nations“), p. 394:

Although the institutions and examples of the Old Testament, of the duty of magistrates in the things and about the worship of God, are not, in their whole latitude and extent, to be drawn into rules that should be obligatory to all magistrates now, under the administration of the gospel, — and that because the magistrate then was “custos, vindex, et administrator legis judicialis, et politiae Mosaicae,” from which, as most think, we are freed; — yet, doubtless, there is something moral in those institutions, which, being unclothed of their Judaical form, is still binding to all in the like kind, as to some analogy and proportion. Subduct from those administrations what was proper to, and lies upon the account of, the church and nation of the Jews, arid what remains upon the general notion of a church and nation must be everlastingly binding.

I wonder if both the debaters would agree with that quotation? If so, then the resolution of their recent debate can be affirmed in one sense (i.e. the civil laws are obligatory as to their moral aspects and analogously) and denied in another sense (i.e. the civil laws are not obligatory in their Judaical form).

I note that Bahnsen himself seems to have felt that he could agree with Owen, since Bahnsen himself quoted it in his interaction with Ian Murray (as can be seen here).

-TurretinFan

Variants and Matt Slick

April 2, 2015

I’m listening through a variety of episodes of the “Bible Thumping Wingnut.” Despite the very low quality stuff on theonomy in a few of the recent episodes (I don’t see the point to correct these errors – there are plenty of other folks doing that and being ignored), there are some good discussions on a variety of topics, particularly when Matt Slick addresses atheists/agnostics. However, in Episode 44, when asked about textual variants, our brother Matt dropped the ball, so I want to take the opportunity to correct this point.

Matt took the position that if an article (a word meaning “the”) is dropped in a copy, and then that typo is copied by five further scribes in their respective copies, that’s six variants. Matt’s not right – that’s not how it works. That would be a variant with six witnesses.

The reason the number of variants is so high is because of the large number of hand copies, but not because each copy of each typo is counted as a variant. Instead, it’s because there are numerous possible misspellings for many words, particular for words with a “movable nu” (similar to the difference between “a” and “an” in English) and numerous variants in the order of words.

In any event, to answer the bigger question about whether we can know what the original was, there are tools for reconstructing the original text from copies containing variants. While there are a few different ways of doing this, they all yield substantially the same text at most points. (see Dr. White’s excellent discussion here).

-TurretinFan


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