Sunday, June 13

A Little Argument Inspection

I often use Daniel Wallace, who is a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary as a source of information on translational issues. I also often use the NET Bible--especially the wonderful translation notes--for study, and the NET is a translation for which he was the senior New Testament editor. So of course I was a bit curious when someone posted a link to an article by David Cloud on the Baptist Board last week. The title of the article is Dallas Professor Denies Biblical Inspiration. Daniel Wallace is the Dallas professor referred to in the title to the article.

Now, you really can't read much Daniel Wallace and not know that he believes in biblical inspiration. His reverence for the text comes through in everything he writes. His serious study of the text attests to his belief that it is "God-breathed." So right from the get-go I was convinced that the article was wrong. (There! Now you know that I didn't come into the examination of this article unbiased.) However, since examining arguments is something I really like to do, I read the article anyway, to see what sort of proof was offered to support the statement in the title. The rest of this post is a discussion of what I found.

David Cloud gives us a nice little summary of his argument in the first paragraph.
Wallace supports the redaction approach to the Gospels, that the Gospels were written not by direct inspiration of God but by copying material from secondary sources, thereby denying the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit as taught by Christ and the Apostles.
I'll leave the accusation of redactionism alone. It's a charged word, and one I'm not sure Cloud is using correctly. Cloud tells us what how he's defining that word, so I can just lay out the argument without using that word and explaining what it really means.

Cloud's argument goes like this: Daniel Wallace believes that the authors of the synoptic gospels used sources (or a source) for information they recorded in the gospels (*see endnote), therefore he doesn't believe in the inspiration of Scripture. As you can probably see, something is missing from the argument. The conclusion doesn't follow necessarily from the first statement. There's another step in there that is alluded to, but not stated, and that's this idea: God's inspiration of the scripture precludes the uses of outside sources by the authors.

When you stick that statement in the argument, it'll look like this:
  • Daniel Wallace believes authors of scripture used outside sources.
  • God's inspiration of scripture precludes the authors' use of outside sources.
  • Therefore, Daniel Wallace doesn't believe in the inspiration of scripture.
This conclusion is a legitimate one to draw from the first two statements. If the first two statements are correct, then the conclusion is correct. I am accepting the first statement as correct on the basis of the quotes from Wallace that Cloud provides. The only questionable link in the chain is that second statement.

Is it correct to say that outside sources cannot be used to produce inspired scripture? What evidence of the truth of this statement does Cloud have? He doesn't really lay out this evidence for us, but he does give us a clue as to what sort of evidence he thinks he has in support of this statement. He says that Wallace, in arguing for the uses of sources for the gospels is "thereby denying the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit as taught by Christ and the Apostles." According to Cloud, then, there is something in what Christ and the Apostles tell us about the way scripture was inspired that precludes the use of sources. He is appealing to scripture to support the unstated second statement in his argument.

Later in the article he gives a couple of scripture references that it seems he might be using as his evidence for this statement. They are two statements by Christ about the work of the Holy Spirit after Christ leaves the disciples:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26 NASB)

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose {it} to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose {it} to you. (John 16:13-15 NASB)
These texts really just say that the Holy Spirit will guide the apostles to the truth by disclosing the things that will happen in the future, and bringing to their minds the things that Jesus said while he was here on earth. They don't say what method the Spirit will use for either the disclosure of the future or the remembrance of the past, and they don't say anything that precludes the use of other sources as the means by which these past memories are brought to mind by the Spirit.

Cloud also says there are things taught by the apostles that prove his statement, but unfortunately he doesn't give us references for this scriptural support, so I had to go searching myself. Actually, I didn't have to search; I knew there weren't any supporting apostolic statements in scripture. We have the statement from Paul that "all scripture is God-breathed", which just tells us that it is inspired, not exactly how the inspiration process works, or whether outside sources can be used as part of the God-breathed process. We also have the statement from 2 Peter 1:
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is {a matter} of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (verses 20 and 21 NASB)
We are just told that men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, but once again, we're not told that this speaking from God means that information gathered from other sources can't be used as part of that God-spoken word.

So the second statement in the argument put forward by Cloud is unscriptural in the sense that it has no specific support in scripture. He claims that it is what Christ and the Apostles told us, but it is not. It is how David Cloud thinks it must be, I suppose, but it isn't laid out that way for us in scripture.

Moreover, not only is this statement unscriptural in the sense that it is not found in scripture, it is unscriptural in the sense that it goes against what we are told in scripture. Luke, whose gospel I assume David Cloud believes is inspired, tell us this by way of introduction to the gospel account he wrote:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write {it} out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Luke 1 NASB)
In other words, Luke used compilations done by others of accounts handed down by eyewitnesses to the events of the first advent of Christ. He used these compilations done by others as sources for the information in the God-breathed writings found in his gospel account.

Not only is it possible to believe that outside sources were used for the synoptic gospels and still believe that the scripture is inspired, but those who take the whole of scripture as inspired must believe that outside sources were used for at least some of what's found in the gospels, because inspired scripture tells us it is so.

What this is really all about is that David Cloud, who argues for a KJVOnly position, is seeking to undermine the authority of someone respected who stands on the other side of the debate. His problem, though, is a common one in KJVO circles: he is building an argument around the way he thinks things ought to be, or the way he thinks things must be. David Cloud assumes that inspired-by-God text must be produced by something that seems pretty close to dictation by God. He is making that assumption on the basis of no scriptural evidence, and against one statement we do have about how an inspired gospel account came about, simply because that's the way that seems right to him.

The rest of the article is also full fuzzy thinking, illogic, and irrelevant argument. What's really sad is that David Cloud is considered to be one of the more reasonable proponents of KJVOnlyism, and he argues quite forcefully against the use of silly arguments and ad hominem attacks by other KJVO proponents, but he doesn't seem to be able to spot the same sort of problems in his own thinking.

I have a hunch that if every believer were taught to carefully examine the arguments they come in contact with--if we all thought it was our duty to take on the role of Argument Inspector now and then in order to avoid error--then the error of KJVOnlyism would peter out for lack of followers, because the arguments in its defense all seem to boil down to these same sorts of illogical arguments and unsupported statements. It's no coincidence, I suppose, that the place where this error is prevalent is in a church culture that is suspicious of critical thinking and what they call "intellectualism". Unfortunately, given this suspicion, exercises inspecting the arguments, like the one I just went through in this post, will probably have little effect on those who already adhere to this viewpoint.


*Actually, Cloud states things in a stronger way than this, but his quotes from Wallace don't support his statement that Wallace thinks the gospels were simply copied from other sources, but rather they show that Wallace believes that at least one common source is used for the synoptic gospels, and that explains their similarities, so in my summary of Cloud's argument I've stepped back a bit from that particular statement of David Cloud's and used instead a statement that the evidence will support. The basic form and flow of the argument isn't changed.