Combs’ explanation of the controversy is helpful. He shows that the “debate about preservation can be classified a number of ways. At the most fundamental level, one can make a twofold division: (1) those who deny the Scriptures teach any doctrine of preservation[i] and (2) those who affirm there is a doctrine of preservation taught by the Scriptures, either directly or indirectly.” Within group 2 – those who hold a doctrine of preservation – proponents can be subdivided (roughly) into “those who believe that the Scriptures have been preserved in the totality of the biblical manuscripts (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), and, on the other side, are those who believe that the Scriptures have only been accurately preserved in the KJV/TR/MT tradition...”[ii]
I do not intend to focus on how the promise of preservation is fulfilled – for example, the totality of texts, the Byzantine Textform (Greek), Textus Receptus (Greek) or King James (English).[iii] Rather, the main point of consideration is whether the Bible itself teaches a doctrine of preservation. But we will deal with several peripheral issues first.
Whether the Bible teaches the doctrine of the preservation of scripture is not a King James-Only debate – though many try to make it so. Rehurek says, “Many evangelicals and KJV-only advocates assert that the Bible provides explicit evidence for a doctrine of miraculous preservation.” Nevertheless, throughout his article he “blames” the doctrine mostly on KJV-only advocates rather than “any evangelicals.” Daniel Wallace takes a similar tack. He starts out with a hard line trying to pin the doctrine of preservation on the Textus Receptus-Only and KJVO folks.[iv] That’s a “poisoning the well” debate technique that gains sympathy toward their argument from folks who are not TRO or KJVO.
We understand that much of the impetus for Glenny, Rehurek and Wallace is to denounce the Textus Receptus-Only and King James-Only movements. Nevertheless these authors do a disservice to their readers in discussing a broad view held by many evangelicals over a long period of time while playing to “anti-KJVO-bias” in order to gain sympathy for their proposition. Gotquestions.org is a good example. The Got Questions site answers in the affirmative the question “Is the doctrine of preservation biblical?” They use the same texts TR and KJV proponents use. They clearly are not KJVO, since on their site “Scripture references: Unless otherwise noted” are taken from the NIV. This raises a perplexing question. Are Glenny, Rehurek, Wallace and others deliberately masking the fact that they are taking on a doctrine held in one degree or another by (possibly) most evangelical and conservative Christians while pretending to attack some they portray as a fringe group?
Another thing that is misleading – particularly in Rehurek’s piece – is distinguishing preservation as either miraculous or providential. Rehurek’s use of providence – though not incorrect – has a different connotation than the average reader might place on it.[v] In non-technical terms the average Christian most often views providence as a special act of God in favor or for the good of his people. On the other hand, Rehurek and some others like him believe God’s providence with regard to the preservation of Scripture is no more special than God’s providence in preserving the works of Shakespeare or Plato. Further complicating the matter are two other things: (1) the fact that many non-charismatic Christians may be predisposed to read “miraculous” somewhat negatively, and (2) many proponents of what Rehurek calls “miraculous preservation” refer to their own viewpoint as “providential preservation.”
Tomorrow, Preservation: Historical considerations, Confessions (d.v.)
[i] He also explains, “Right at the onset, we must distinguish between belief in a doctrine of preservation and, simply, belief in preservation...those in group 1 [do not deny] the preservation of Scripture...But they do deny that Scripture anywhere promises, either directly or indirectly, its own preservation—a doctrine of preservation. That is, they can speak of the preservation of Scripture because it is a historical reality...”
[ii] This is primarily a debate over the Greek texts.
[iii] W. W. Combs classifies some of the positions this way (without distinguishing any fine points among the KJVO views), “The MT position differs from the TR position in that it argues that the text of the autographs is more perfectly preserved in the thousands of manuscripts that are part of the Byzantine text-type. Since, therefore, these manuscripts represent a majority of all extant Greek manuscripts, a Greek text derived from a consensus of these manuscripts can be called the Majority Text. The TR viewpoint, on the other hand, suggests that the various printed editions of the Greek New Testament, beginning with Erasmus in 1516, more perfectly preserve the autographs...The King James-only view argues that the KJV is the only English Bible that may be called the Word of God.”
[iv] I copied Wallace’s essay into Microsoft Word and numbered the pages. Of the 13 pages of the complete article – in Times New Roman 11 type and not counting the footnotes – one has to get to page 9 (over 2/3 of the way into the piece) before Wallace finally admits that preservation isn’t just a view of those who promote the MT/TR and KJV. This consists of one line – “In spite of the fact that even opponents of the MT/TR view embrace such a doctrine, it simply does not square with the evidence” – with a footnote that references R. A. Taylor’s Ph.D. dissertation at Bob Jones University in 1973.
[v] Of course, one could argue this isn’t directed to the “average reader.”