Bible: The Authentic Source Texts

6 - Postmodern Evangelicalism's 'Elephant in the Room'

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
How can God command us not to add to or take away from Scripture unless we have the inerrant original in our hands today?

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 6 of a series. Read part 5.

Most Evangelical pastors and academics say that we do not have the inerrant Word of God in the original languages in our hands today. All we have, they say, is a corrupted text. If that is true, how can God command mankind today not to add to or take away from His Word -- with the penalty of eternal death?

Thus far this series has focused upon the most disastrous development of the past 150 years of church history. That development is part of a pattern as old as time.

Throughout world history - from the first temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis, to the temptation of Christ in the wilderness as recorded in the Gospels, to the final deception of mankind by the Beast and False Prophet as foretold in Revelation - through all time, Satan's primary attack has been and always will be upon the inerrancy of the Word of God.

Evangelicalism's Surrender on Inerrancy

In the past 150 years Satan has greatly intensified that attack. During this era, the vast majority of Evangelical pastors and scholars have bought into a Darwinistic theory of the text of Scripture, with devastating results for Christian academia and the church.

Postmodern Evangelicals have abandoned the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture that God's Word itself declares - the truth that God has and always will preserve His inerrant Word, not only in our hands for all time but also for eternity. Instead they assert that Scripture was only free from error in the original manuscripts, and that the Bible we have in our hands today in the original languages is corrupted. As we shall see in a future article, Scripture itself tells us that this is a lie and a deception.

Why has this development in Evangelicalism been such a disaster? By embracing the lie of a corrupted text, which first gained acceptance through the efforts of Westcott and Hort in Europe and subsequently spread to North America through the writings of B. B. Warfield, the church has put itself in a position in which it no longer stands on the foundational fact of uncorrupted Scripture, as stalwart believers of past centuries did.

The last 130 years have seen an avalanche of Bible versions that are based on a stream of allegedly "superior" source texts that are not merely corrupted, but are counterfeit. It can be readily proved that these counterfeit texts were corrupted over many centuries - not accidentally through errors by copyists, but deliberately through revision by heretics. As a result of Evangelicalism's widespread surrender to this tampering with Holy Writ, Christians' faith in the supreme authority of authentic Scripture has been shaken. Much of the church no longer preaches the whole counsel of God, because it has robbed itself of the unapologetic confidence of Divine authority to proclaim absolute truth.

These developments have spawned yet another deadly result, the proliferation of man-made doctrines. At the moment the church begins to accept the false notion of a less-than-inerrant Bible, it becomes a book that is effectively just one of many religious books, and the church opens the door to the Satanic evil of "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9, Colossians 2:22, Titus 1:14).

The "Elephant in the Room"

Postmodern Evangelicalism's Darwinistic view of the source texts of Scripture raises a crucial question which, for adherents of this view, is the "elephant in the room" that they try desperately to ignore. Repeatedly, from the beginning of the Bible to the end, God commands us to adhere to His pure Word - not to turn away from it to the right hand or the left, not to add anything to it or take anything away from it. These commandments are couched in life-and-death terms:

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully [literally, not falsifying, adulterating, or corrupting the Word of God], but by manifestation of the truth [literally, by a plain and forthright disclosure of revealed truth] commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Here then is the fundamental question - the "elephant in the room" that postmodern Evangelicals are loathe to face: If God has not faithfully preserved His inerrant Word in the original languages for us, how can His people possibly obey such commandments as those above? How can a just and holy God demand such things of mankind? How can we possibly know when we are adding to or taking away from His Word - and how can we be judged for such a thing - unless there is an inerrant standard? How can we possibly know if we are turning even the slightest degree to the right or to the left if we do not have an absolutely reliable compass? How can we know when someone is adulterating the pure Word of God unless the pure Word of God exists?

The only way that God could command such things of His people in all ages is if Holy Scripture in the original languages is available, still absolutely free from error, in all ages - as He has promised.

Furthermore, how can we trust God the Holy Spirit - the author of all Scripture - to aid and guide us in the interpretation of His Word as He has promised, if we cannot trust the same God to have preserved His Word intact and free from error?

The answer is the same. God can promise such aid to His people in all ages and not be found a liar because He has providentially preserved His Word.

Sad to say, in our time only a minority still believes that it is possible for us to have, in our hands today, the complete and inerrant Word in the original languages that is uniquely authoritative and demands precise submission. The majority of Evangelical pastors and scholars have their feet firmly planted in mid-air, not on the sure foundation of God's promise. It is no wonder that many of them find it difficult to preach the truth that a holy God rightfully demands, as the stalwarts of the Reformation era put it in their confessions of faith, "personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience" to His inerrant Word. [Both the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of 1646 and the London Baptist Confession of 1689 include this phrase.]

Evangelicals on a Fool's Errand

Here, then, is the central question that every pastor and Christian scholar must face squarely and answer Biblically: Do you truly believe that God has kept and is keeping His promise to preserve His Word, intact and free from error, for all time and for all eternity?

Most Evangelical pastors and academics of the present era cannot answer "Yes" without attaching a long list of reservations, qualifications, and obfuscations that turn their "Yes" into a "Yes, but" that actually means "No". What they actually believe is that God has permitted His Word to be corrupted over the centuries, and therefore it is up to fallen man to reconstruct and restore it by his own fallible reasoning. This is the fool's errand of the textual Darwinists.

Why are they wrong? What exactly is God's promise to preserve His Word? How far does it extend? How must Christian academia and the church approach the Bible, based on a proper understanding of God's promise? That will be our focus as we continue.

Next: The Nature and Extent of Providential Preservation

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