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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, June 23, 2014

Theological Paradigm Shifts? Ben Witherington, III




Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89, NKJV)



I just received a free book of the month from Logos Bible Software.  It was a title written by Ben Witherington, III, a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.  I follow Asbury somewhat because I was once an Arminian Pentecostal and I did my master of divinity at Asbury.

One of the things that troubled me about Asbury is that it seemed to be blown about by every theological fad that even remotely seemed to justify Arminianism.  Arminians are very comfortable with liberalism and neo-orthodoxy because both lend some sort of credibility to the basic pelagianism of even so-called "Evangelical" Wesleyan Arminianism.  

As the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark said, science is always false.  So it would seem that textual criticism and higher criticism are continually in flux.  Rhetorical criticism, canonical criticism, literary criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism and a host of other critical "sciences" all purport to tell us what the Bible means.  Interestingly enough no one has come up with "logical" criticism yet.  

The following quote from Dr. Ben Witherington's book shows just how malleable modern theological scholarship really is:


Paradigms are powerful things. Sometimes they hang on long past their usefulness, like an old sports star who just cannot bear to retire and will not accept that he has passed his prime. And in academic disciplines, it seems that paradigms are especially tenacious and very hard to shift or change. When one talks about a paradigm shift, some scholars react as if one were guilty of sacrilege or heresy. They fear it the way a San Francisco resident fears seismic shifts of tectonic plates. Scholars do not want the ground to move under their feet, especially when they have spent their entire academic careers building tall intellectual skyscrapers on certain assumed unmovable underpinnings or foundations.

One of the things one learns if one stays in the academic arena long enough is that despite a professed commitment to openness and learning new things, many of the guild of biblical scholars do not very often receive the news of a paradigm shift with much, if any, gladness. Indeed, the proposed shift is more likely to be attacked, watered down, contextualized, or trivialized, if it is not simply ignored, following the practice of not-so-benign neglect. All this I know and have experienced as I have continued to write and speak about new, and yet paradoxically old, ways of approaching the study of the New Testament.


Ben Witherington III, What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-Rhetorical Character of the New Testament (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009), 1.

Presuppositional apologetics avoids this sort of relativism and constant shifting of the theological sands.  Our axiom is that Scripture alone is the Word of God.  We do not begin with scholarship and test Scripture by the opinions of unbelieving liberals and heretics.  We begin with the axiom of Scripture.  All else is to be deduced from Scripture.  Scholarship is not the test of Scripture but Scripture is the litmus test for Scripture.  Assuming from the get go that the theology of Scripture is always changing is a direct contradiction to the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration and biblical inerrancy.  Assuming beforehand that the Bible is a theological construct rather than the very words of God breathed out by God himself is itself a presupposition, an axiom.  Starting with liberal presuppositions always ends up in skepticism.  Either you will believe the Bible or you will believe the scholars.

N. T. Wright's major error is in presupposing scholarship is the magisterial overseer for how Scripture is to be read.  On that unproven premise, Wright then proceeds to deconstruct the entire Protestant Reformation and to use the abusive ad hominem against us stupid Americans who refuse to agree with his unbelief and his unproven assumption that the Reformers got the Bible wrong and totally misunderstood the Apostle Paul.

This is not to say that theology and reason cannot be useful for the thinking Christian.  It is.  But the Christian begins with the presupposition the Bible is the Word of God.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  He presupposes that the Bible does not lie and that God does not inspire lies, contradictions, or fictions.  God does not inspire myths, fables, legends or sagas.   The Bible is true in all its parts, in every sentence and word.  (John 10:35; Matthew 4:4; John 12:48). Not one jot or tittle will pass away from God's written words.  (Matthew 5:17-20).

Critical scholarship, on the other hand, never arrives at the truth.  It is always tentative, putative, and speculative.   But the Bible believing Christian is under no obligation to accept the unproven axioms of critical scholarship.

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