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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
Let me make an appeal to my brethren who disagree with those of us who insist on keeping the traditional text of the Bible. Please give us a little more room! I am well aware that some voices from the Authorized Version/Traditional Text camp have been pretty hard on the other side, but I also know that some on the new version/revised text side have a tough time letting us handle this as a doctrinal issue! There are real and serious differences between us on how to determine the right wording of God's Word, but some cannot accept the idea that we see these basically as differences over Bible doctrine. If good Christians can disagree over baptism, security, polity, or election, and maintain some degree of civility, why can we not disagree over Biblical preservation and still respect each other?

A representative spokesman for the hysteria over handling text issues as doctrinal disputes is Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Baptist Seminary. In an article he was asked to write in reply to arguments from Pensacola Theological Seminary against Central's position, Dr. Bauder said that he had "no contention with those who believe that the King James [Version] is the superior English translation, or that the Textus Receptus is the best Greek New Testament" as long as they "hold such matters to be questions of academic debate," but he has a "quarrel . . . with those who transmute those textual and translation questions into a doctrinal issue." He calls upon them "to repent of their error."

Is there any sin in seeing the text debate as fundamentally a doctrinal dispute rather than just an academic disagreement? Of course not. There is no wickedness in believing that the determination of the Bible's text should be directed or at least affected by one's understanding of the doctrine of scriptural preservation, as long as the taking of this position is sincere. Let me make a comparison to prove this point. Many fundamentalists who fuss with "King James" men over the text issue are also men who fight with the CCM crowd over the style of church music. What if an advocate of the new music were to say, "We don't mind if they disagree with us over what is the appropriate style for Christian music as long as they regard this as an academic discussion. When they start talking as if there are Biblical principles at stake, they have gone way too far!" Would traditional style music people comply with such a claim? Would they agree that no disagreement over the teachings of scripture is really involved in the music debate? Would Dr. Harding, Dr. Doran, Dr. Minnick, or Dr. Bauder be willing to argue about the new trends in church music on a strictly academic level? Will they concede that the Bible actually has nothing to say that touches the question of music style? Of course they would not. These men could quickly give you scripture passages that should guide us in our church music choices. I have no argument with them over the fact that music involves doctrinal issues, but I must insist that the Bible text issue involves a doctrinal issue, too.

Although many use academic arguments to contend for the traditional text, virtually all such debaters hold to their point of view because of what they think the Bible promises about its own preservation. Wilbur Pickering in his book The Identity of the New Testament Text debates for the traditional text with academic arguments, but in an appendix at the back of the book he confesses his faith in the doctrine of preservation. It was obviously John Burgon's understanding of this doctrine that was behind his textual approach, and Edward Hills clearly was directed by his doctrinal convictions to defend the Textus Receptus. How can anyone reasonably insist that this issue never be handled as a matter of doctrine? It is the doctrinal difference that has created the debate!

Another comparison clarifies this question for me. Fundamentalists oppose the theory of evolution for reasons of Bible doctrine. Is that not true? It was not the empirical evidence primarily that drove us to be creationists. It was the opening chapters of the Bible, and our faith that the Bible is the Word of God, that required our rejection of evolution. A correct understanding of what the written Word of God teaches about origins dictates our interpretation of the empirical evidence. It's exactly the same with Christians who receive the traditional (handed-down) text of the Bible as correct. We see in Psalm 78:1-7, Psalm 119:89-96 and 160, Isaiah 40:8 and 59:21, Matthew 5:18 and 24:35, Luke 16:17, and I Peter 1:23-25 that God has promised to preserve His Word throughout the ages. Therefore we contend that the holy scriptures are not in need of restoration. Corrupt readings exist in some manuscripts, but the right readings have prevailed. The Word as we received it is the Word as it was given. This we accept by faith in what the Bible says about itself. Our handling of the manuscripts and our selection of readings will be directed by this faith. Those who hold to a revised text disagree with our understanding of the doctrine of preservation, and that is the basic difference between us.

You see, it is a doctrinal issue. Some will want to push forward what they think is compelling empirical evidence that our view is wrong, actually calling upon us to alter or abandon what we see as clear scriptural doctrine in the light of what they consider to be scientific evidence. However, if you do the same thing about evolution, you may want to abandon creation! Of course, the empirical evidence does not disprove the doctrine of creation. It is interpreting evidence apart from Bible truth that produces a way of thinking prone to reject revealed doctrine. And the empirical evidence does not disprove the providential preservation of the traditional text. It is interpreting the evidence apart from Bible truth that produces a rationalistic mind that is prone to reject the doctrine of preservation. Our approach to the subject of the text (with its necessary pre-suppositions) ultimately determines our conclusions about the subject. And our approach is determined by our understanding of Bible doctrine.

So let us allow this to be a doctrinal issue. Let us bring the Bible into the debate and let our opponents do so, too. Let us have thick enough hides not to get our feelings hurt, and let us have big enough hearts not to judge our brethren's motives and hearts. Let's talk doctrine when we talk about the text.

Monthly Article
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

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