Monday, September 18, 2017
WM # 80: Review: Douglas Wilson and James R. White Debate the Text of the NT
I have posted Word Magazine # 80: Review: Douglas Wilson and James R. White Debate the Text of the NT (listen here). In this episode I read through a draft of a review article giving some analysis of the the recently (summer 2017) published booklet, Debating the Text of the Word of God: Douglas Wilson vs. James R. White (Simposio, 2017).
Here is the opening of my review:
This booklet is a brief written debate between Presbyterian theologian Douglas Wilson, perhaps best known most recently for distancing himself from the “federal vision” theology he once championed, and Reformed Baptist apologist James R. White. The debate ostensibly addresses the question, “In the context of the Christian faith, has God best preserved His written word in the New Testament in the Textus Receptus or in the modern Nestle-Aland/UBS Text Platform?”
The debate structure consists of five parts: (1) opening statements; (2) rebuttals; (3) cross-examinations (each participant poses seven questions to the other, who replies); (4) closing statements; and (5) questions and answers (with some questions posed to both participants and others to each individually). In addition to the written debate, the publisher also has available an audio version.
In this debate, Wilson is meant to defend the TR and White the NA/UBS. The exchange becomes somewhat confused, however, by the fact that Wilson puts forward a unique defense of the TR based on his idiosyncratic understanding of the text of the NT from a “canonical” perspective, a view which White appears, perhaps justifiably, only flounderingly to grasp or critique, as he falls back on some stock arguments in favor of the modern critical text. Though there are significant differences between the two positions, in the end both advocate a version of a “reconstructionist” perspective on the text of the NT.
And here is my concluding analysis:
This written debate on the text of the NT is brief but dense in content. In the end, I agree with Wilson that the approach of both presenters is “structurally identical.” They both present a “reconstruction” view of the text of the NT, as opposed to a classical Protestant, confessional view of the providential preservation of Scripture, as expressed in chapter one, paragraph eight of the Westminster Confession (and the Second London Baptist Confession). Both believe that the text of the NT, at present, can only be closely approximated but it remains “unsettled.” Wilson presents a unique “canonical” view of the text, suggesting the best current approximation of the true text is found in Stephanus’ 1550 edition of the TR. White is taken aback by Wilson’s unique approach and struggles properly to understand his perspective. For White the closest text to the autograph is found in the current edition of the modern critical text (NA 28/UBS5), which he doggedly defends. The problem, again, is that neither view articulates the traditional Protestant perspective on the text of Scripture and its preservation as presented in the confession.