Friday, July 29, 2022

The Vision: Who is your King?


Image: Butterfly bush, North Garden, Virginia, July, 2022.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 17:22-27.

Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and given unto them for me and thee (Matthew 17:27).

This miracle is one of the most unusual in the Gospels. Only Matthew has a record of it.

Men come asking Peter whether or not his master pays the “tribute” (17:24). This is likely a reference to the Jewish “half-shekel” tax, extending back to the time of Moses for the support of the tabernacle (and later temple) worship (see Exodus 30:11-16).

When Peter comes to Christ to inquire, our Lord “prevents” (gets ahead of) him by already knowing of the query (17:25). The Lord asks whether kings take tribute from their children (sons) or from strangers? When Peter says from strangers, the Lord declares, “Then the children [sons] are free” (26).

His point is that since he is the Son of David (Matthew 1:1) and the Son of God (Matthew 16:16), he need not pay the tax. Yet so as not to offend (Greek: skandalizo) he sends Peter out to collect the funds needed for the tribute, making provision in a most extraordinary manner (17:27).

He sends Peter, a fisherman, out to fish, not with a net, but with a hook. He tells him to look in the mouth of the first fish he catches to find a “piece of money,” and with it to pay the tribute for himself and Peter. This is a miracle that modern naturalists love to hate. How could this be? And yet, the believer knows that with God nothing is impossible.

What does this miracle mean? Rick Warren suggested years ago it implied that evangelism (fishing) would result in adequate church funding. If you catch them, they will give money! Clearly that is wrong.

The real point is the power of Christ. What a marvel of provision this is! He superintended a coin to come into the mouth of the fish, Peter to cast the hook, the fish to bite the hook, and Peter to discover the coin.

What is more, there is a foreshadowing of what is to come. He, as Son of God, did not have to pay the price, and yet he did. What is more, he paid it for Peter, his disciple. This anticipates his substitutionary atonement on the cross.

He is, in fact, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.

Who is your King?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Vision (7.22.22): But by prayer and fasting


Image: Close-up scene from "Jesus Curing An Epileptic Boy" in the Armenian Glajor Gospels, early 14th century.

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 17:14-21.

Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).

Last Lord’s Day we meditated on the intercession of a father for a troubled son in Matthew 17:14-21. What spiritual lessons do we learn from this account?

First, we might say we learn something from the pattern here. After being on the mountain of transfiguration and seeing Christ’s glory, the disciples descend and are immediately confronted again with the sin and misery of the fallen world. So too, in our spiritual lives, we too experience times of other-worldly highs, but they are often followed by experiences of our this-world reality.

Second, we learn something here about the power and importance of intercessory prayer. A troubled father pleads with Christ for his only son, tormented by a dumb spirit. For whom would you intercede before Christ?

Third, we learn something here about the power of Christ. He speaks and the child was cured that very hour (v. 18).

Fourth, we learn from the failure of the apostles who could not cure the lad because of their unbelief (v. 20). We are reminded that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

We learn also from the unbelief of the father who brought his son before Christ, as he prayed, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Fifth, we learn here about the power of the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting. Christ exhorts us, as he did the apostles, to exercise these disciplines. In Matthew 7:7-8 Christ exhorted the disciples to ask, seek, and knock. Sadly, too often it is the case that we have not because we ask not.

What is it that deeply troubles you? Have you tried asking in prayer? Have you tried fasting?

There are some kinds that “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, July 15, 2022

The Vision (7.15.22): The Transfiguration


Image: Blueberries, North Garden, Virginia, July 2022

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 17:1-13.

And [he] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light (Matthew 17:2).

The first three Gospels agree in saying that after Peter’s confession and after Christ’s teaching on the suffering servant and the cost of discipleship Jesus went up onto a mountain and was transfigured (cf. Matthew 16—17; Mark 8—9; Luke 9). So, there is a threefold Gospel witness to this event. Certainly, this was a milestone in the life and ministry of Christ. If one thinks, however, of some of the key events in that life, like his birth in Bethlehem, his baptism by John, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his passion (the cross and resurrection), he may overlook the transfiguration.

When I was preparing the service for today, I looked in the Trinity Hymnal to find a hymn that fit with the text but saw no entry for hymns on the transfiguration (see vii).

Matthew’s description is minimal: “And he was transfigured [metamorpheo] before them” (17:2a). He then adds that Christ’s face literally lit up with glory, “and his face did shine as the sun” (v. 2). What happens if you look directly at the sun? You are blinded. Matthew then says, “his raiment was white as the light.” We get the sense of his clothing becoming translucent. Mark says it was “exceeding white as snow, as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mark 9:3).

This was an unusual event. There is really nothing else like it in the Scriptures. It left a lasting impression on the eyewitnesses (see Peter’s account in 2 Peter 1:16-18). It was a time when the divine nature of the Lord Jesus was clearly revealed to a handful of his disciples. They saw, as it were, the pre-incarnate glory of Christ (2 Cor 8:9).

This came on the heels of Christ’s teaching that the Son of man had to suffer many things, be killed, and be raised on the third day (Matthew 16:21). It was a revelation to the inner core of Christ’s disciples as to the Lord Jesus’s true identity. One person with two natures: true man and true God. Though he would suffer and die as a man, with respect to his human nature, his glory, with respect to his divine nature, would not be diminished.

Just as the Father through his divine voice declared at the commencement of his public ministry, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17), so a second stamp of approval is given at the transfiguration as he moves toward the cross, with the added exhortation, “hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).

So, we too are encouraged to listen to Christ, and we are reminded that one day we also will see him “face to face” in his glory (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

WM 243: Responding to Another Comment by Mark Ward


Responding to another comment by Mark Ward, regarding WM 241:

Dr. Riddle, I appreciate the time you took to offer some answers. We do come from such different perspectives that I do not believe we are ever going to come to agreement. I also will not demand that you engage further, though I am willing and hoping for this to occur.

I do simply wish to request clarity on one thing before proceeding in this discussion. CB proponents do always, in my long experience, claim that there is a perfectly pure, preserved text of the New Testament—and yet they just as commonly (in my long experience!) do not speak clearly when they are asked the very natural and honest follow-up questions, 1) "Which TR is the perfect one?" and 2) "Why that one instead of a different TR?"

Do I take it that you are now answering that first question with clarity? Are you saying indeed that Scrivener's TR is the perfect TR? And am I correct in interpreting you to mean that a) every jot and tittle God inspired in the autographs is present in Scrivener's TR, b) none is missing or added, and c) all are in the right order? This is all I can take "perfect" preservation to mean. My New Oxford American Dictionary defines perfect as "free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless"; it also gives "precisely accurate; exact." Is that what "perfect" means to you?

I simply cannot see how these could be considered "gotcha" questions. I truly do not understand your view even after long listening, and I wish to represent you accurately. Do I? Have I stated your view as you would state it?

Dr. Ward, I agree with R. L. Vaughan that your repeated asking of the so-called “Which TR?” question is hard to take as genuine but appears to be a “stratagem of debate.”

In fact, you yourself clearly answered the question in your 2020 article when you wrote that Scrivener’s TR is “used today by basically all who prefer the TR” (53), adding, “The edition that is universally used is that provided by the Trinitarian Bible Society” (53, n. 9).

I have clearly stated that my views are in line with the TBS’s statement on the doctrine of Holy Scripture, that, in the NT, I make practical use of Scrivener’s TR, that any individual passages where there are questions about Scrivener’s TR should be examined on a case-by-case basis, and I have even provided some principles for how such cases might be addressed.

I’d suggest that rather than trying to restate my view in your own words that you just use my words themselves to define my position.

I am sorry if you do not think this response is adequate, or that it is inconsistent with my belief that the Bible has been “kept pure in all ages.”

Now, since I have answered your questions, would you please answer a few of mine?

1.     Would you respond to the three problems I raised in WM 240 regarding your conflation of CB with KJVO? Given these problems, do you still think that CB can reasonably and fairly be categorized as a variety of KJVO?

2.     Do you believe that God’s Word is perfect and that it has been “kept pure in all ages”?

3.     Which modern critical text do you believe is the Word of God (or the best approximation of it)?

4.     Do you agree or disagree with Daniel Wallace’s recent statement: “We do not now have—in our critical Greek texts or any translations—exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it” (Myths and Mistakes, xii).

5.     Do you agree with James White that any verse in the Bible could possibly be changed based on new manuscript discoveries?

6.     With reference to your preferred modern critical text of the NT, what percentage of the that edition do you believe is accurate and what percentage is questionable? Can you give specific examples of each?

7.     Do you believe that Mark 16:9-20 is a spurious and uninspired corruption and should be removed from the Bible?

8.     Do you believe that John 7:53—8:11 is also a spurious and uninspired corruption that should be removed from the Bible?

9.     Do you believe that the modern text/translation rendering of John 1:18 is theologically accurate?

10.  Do you accept the reading of 2 Peter 3:10 in the NA28 edition?

I look forward to your responses to these important questions.

Regards, JTR

Monday, July 11, 2022

WM 241: Responding to a Comment by Mark Ward

Responding to a comment on WM 240 by Mark Ward:

Brother Riddle, I am not "against the Authorized Version." I love and trust the KJV. If you are asking for charitable descriptions of your position, I must ask the same. This is a persistent misrepresentation of my view. I am not against the KJV anymore than I am against the Wycliffe Bible. But if people insist on using it exclusively in churches, I must call them to the standard of 1 Cor 14: edification requires intelligibility.

My point in this podcast was to make the observation that, from my perspective, it seems you often put forward inconsistencies in your rhetoric.

For example, in you book Authorized, you begin by noting that that you grew up “reading and hearing the KJV,” adding, “and I don’t recall having any trouble with the verbiage” (1), but you later exhort your readers, “Children and new converts should not be given copies of the KJV” (120). Clearly, this latter statement is “against” the usage of the AV. To point this out and to say that you are “against the AV” is not, in fact, a misrepresentation, nor is it uncharitable. It is simply a statement of fact drawn from your own words.

In the WM 240 podcast I called attention to an inconsistency in your argument against CB in your 2020 article. In that piece, you initially state that proponents of CB “take a different path to a similar but not identical viewpoint” as KJVO (57), but, later, you argue that CB and KJVO have “the same viewpoint” (62-63). Your rhetoric here is inconsistent.

I sincerely wish to avoid pejorative labeling. After my book came out, when I was first contacted by William Sandell, who was then, at least, a proponent of Confessional Bibliology (I don't know where he's at now), I believed him when he said he was NOT KJV-Only.

If you truly wish to avoid pejorative labeling, then do not refer to those who hold to the traditional Protestant text as KJVO.

But then I started talking with your followers, Dr. Riddle. And I simply could not avoid the parallels. I grew up KJV-Only. I know the arguments we made to one another. I note that there is massive overlap between the arguments made by IFB KJV-Onlyists and those made by Confessional Bibliologists. 

First, I’m not sure who these “followers” of mine are or whether they accurately reflected my position. I can only speak for myself.

Second, definitions are again a problem in your argument. Did you grow up in a church of the Ruckman/Riplinger KJVO variety? Or in a church that simply preferred the KJV? Whatever the case, your experience does not necessarily mean that you properly understand the Confessional Text position. You claim there are “massive overlaps” with your (undefined) KJVO. Are there not also “massive differences”? Let’s look at your list:

- Both groups use the same prooftexts (Mt 5:18; Ps 12:6–7; Ps 119:105; Mt 4:4; etc.).

Wouldn’t nearly all Christian make use of these passages and other similar ones in building their Bibliology?

- Both groups use the same key words to describe the TR/KJV: "preserved," "pure," "stable," "settled," "unchanging."

Wouldn’t most ordinary Christians use these words to describe the Bible, even those who have no firm views on text or translation?

- Both groups insist that inspiration demands perfect preservation.

But true KJVOs of the Ruckman/Riplinger variety would say this applies to an English translation and not the “immediately inspired” divine original (WCF 1:8).

- Both groups use the same tone. This is admittedly a more subjective judgment than the previous two points. And, frankly, you are a more courteous combatant, Dr. Riddle. I don't expect this comment to be persuasive to you, but for the cause of truth I must say it.

You’re right when you say your argument here is completely subjective. BTW, I’ve also received some pretty harsh comments from Modern-Text-Onlyists.

- Both groups maximize the differences between the TR and the critical text. You yourself, in your review of my book, called the CT a "completely different underlying text."

Do you deny that there are fundamental differences between the traditional text and the modern critical text? If they are not different, then why not just embrace the traditional text?

- Both groups call the critical text "corrupt" and argue that it undermines or attacks Christian doctrines. (CT proponents do not return this favor; I believe Scrivener's TR is a good reconstruction of the original text, just not the best available.)

Is not the integrity of the text of the Bible a key doctrinal issue? Does it not affect other issues like canon, preservation, authority, etc.? To remove Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 would remove 24 verses from the Bible, the equivalent to one or more shorter books in the NT. To remove 1 John 5:7b-8a would deprive the church of a key prooftext for the Trinity. Modern translations/texts of John 1:18 challenge the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. These and other examples clearly show that the doctrinal stakes are high.

BTW, modern critical text advocates claim that the traditional text is corrupted (so they do “return the favor”). In my debate with him JW said Mark 16:9-20 is a spurious unorthodox corruption. I recently heard an OPC pastor say the same of the PA. CB advocates are not alone in maintaining that the question of text has key theological import.

- Both groups refuse to answer the "Which TR?" question. They consistently claim to have a perfectly pure text but just as consistently dodge the questions of which TR is perfect and why.

- Both groups functionally—as you said to Dwayne Green, "practically"—resort to Scrivener's TR. And that TR is the KJV.

Answers to the “Which TR?” question have been given by the TBS (in its statement on the doctrine of Holy Scripture), by myself (on my blog), by Truelove, by Krivda, by Vaughan (“a stratagem of debate”), and by McShaffrey (citing Burgon, “a diversion fallacy…throwing dust into the eyes”). Scrivener’s TR is clearly the Protestant standard in use today. Is it that no one has answered your question, or that you don’t like the answers?

Again, definition is important. KJVO (by strict definition) would not embrace Scrivener’s TR since it is not the KJV. So anyone who suggests the TR is the standard is NOT KJVO by definition.

- Both groups put "the TR" in their church (and other institutional) doctrinal statements but fail to specify which TR they believe to be perfect.

Again, definitions are key. If truly KJVO, a church or institution would not list the TR as a standard but the KJV.

Churches and institutions are free to define the translations and texts that they choose to use. Is it really confusing if a church says they use the traditional text without specifying a certain edition? Does it not, at the least, say they don’t use the modern text?

Do you apply this same standard to churches that embrace modern texts/translations. Do you insist they must specify, for example, which edition of NA they use? Does your church do this?

- Both groups refuse to explain the specific differences between TR editions that I talked about in my paper. Two years on, I still simply do not know how you would handle those specifics. I listed ten passages in which the two TRs I looked at exhibit "Differences in Words That Produce Differences in Meaning." I listed one missing clause (1 John 2:23) and two outright contradictions (Jas 2:18; Rev 11:2) between TR editions. I do not know how you account for these, because you have not explained.

Have you ever considered that there might be problems in some of the premises in your paper? Like, for example, you offer comparisons between one printed edition (the 1550 Stephanus) and Scrivener’s. Why should the minor differences these two editions hold weight when it has already been affirmed that Scrivener’s is the generally accepted standard?

Also: Have CB advocates really “refused” to respond to your objections? Are we obligated to respond to the objections of anyone who disagrees with us? Or, do only your papers, podcasts, etc. hold this special power? Why are we obligated to respond to you?

- Both groups dismiss and ignore my false friends argument. They say, ironically, that people should study to show themselves approved. To my knowledge, not a single KJV defender in either group has publicly or privately acknowledged learning a specific false friend from me. And very, very few (Robert Truelove being a very notable exception, Bryan Ross being another) have acknowledged that there are any false friends in KJV English at all—even though their own TBS Westminster Reference Bible and Defined KJB list numbers of my false friends.

Again, are we required to respond to your arguments? I did address one of your suggested “false friends” (“halt”) in my review of your book and challenged the idea that this term is confusing or incomprehensible.

You said, "Confessional Christians necessarily reject KJV-Onlyism, especially of the Ruckman-Riplinger variety." I don't deny this. But this defines KJV-Onlyism narrowly as Ruckmanite double inspirationism. My IFB church growing up was not Ruckmanite, but we were KJV-Only, and proud of it. And we said almost all the same things you say about the KJV, minus anything about the Westminster Confession, of course!

Again, definition is a big problem. It is you who lumped in those who prefer the KJV with those who hold to Ruckman/Riplinger views. I’m not yet convinced you really understand why a confessional man cannot be called KJVO. WCF 1:8 is key. It is the immediate inspiration of the originals that is central, not translations.

You said, "There are those who affirm the Confessional Text position who do not make primary or exclusive use of the King James Version." I acknowledge this. After years of searching, I know two such people, and both of them go to the same church. And one of them has said to me that he is privately frustrated with the rest of Confessional Bibliology for being basically KJV-Only.

Your anecdotal experiences are not the standard. There are more than two examples of persons who embrace the traditional text but who do not make exclusive use of the KJV (and they’re not all in the same church!). You also have not yet addressed the TBS doing translations into other languages based on the traditional Reformation text. What about my German friend Andrej?  Is he KJVO?

Dr. Riddle, the best way to get me to stop using the label "KJV-Onlyism" for your view is to provide an answer to the substance of my argument in that Detroit paper. How do you handle differences among classic, mature, Protestant editions of the TR? If they exhibit the same kinds of variants as do the TR and the CT, why are those variants "corruptions" for my text but not for yours?

Whether or not I respond to your article, I have the feeling you will still try to lump in CB as KJVO. Smiles. I’ve already addressed this issue in my 2019 blog article responding to Dirk Jongkind.

I may get around to responding to your 2020 article at some point. To be straight, I see some major logical problems with your argument, which makes responding a challenge. One of those logical problems is the emphasis you give at the end of your article to the supposed significance of differences in printed editions of the TR and differences between the TR and the modern critical text. To me, this comparison seems illogical. Perhaps I’ll have time to explain why at some point.

You are a gifted man. I have heard from a reliable source that you are an excellent preacher. I don't like having this disagreement with you. I am frustrated, brother, that you will not answer what I take to be simple questions that, before the Lord, I asked in good faith.

You’re right that this is not a personal disagreement. I really don’t know you personally. It is an intellectual and theological disagreement. I’m sorry you feel frustrated. If it is any consolation, you can be sure that many in the CB camp find your perspective on these matters (and especially your insistence on labelling of the CB position as KJVO) to be frustrating as well.

With respect to this podcast, your comments here do not really answer the three main objections put forward in this episode to your claim that CB is the “same” as KJVO:

1.     You fail to define what KJVO is, and then you use the term too broadly. Our suspicion is that you do so for rhetorical reasons.

2.     You do not explain how a CB advocate could hold to WCF 1:8 and its insistence on the immediate inspiration of the Bible only in the original Hebrew and Greek and still be reasonably and fairly described as KJVO.

3.     You do not explain how one could hold to CB but not make exclusive use of the KJV (and even be someone who does not speak English but who prefers the traditional Hebrew and Greek text of the Reformation and translations made from it in their own language) and still be reasonably and fairly described as KJVO.

Regards, JTR

Saturday, July 09, 2022

WM 240 (b): Is Confessional Bibliology KJVO?


Three problems with the CB is KJVO argument:

First: It does not offer a clear definition of terms, especially "KJVO."

Second: Confessional Christianity necessarily reject KJVO, especially of the Ruckman/Riplinger variety (see WCF 1:8).

Third: There are those who affirm the CB position but who do not make primary or exclusive use of the KJV.


Iron Sharpens Iron podcasts:

Mark Ward on the June 1, 2022 and June 8, 2022 shows under the titles, “KJVO & CB: Comparison and Contrast (& the Dangers of Both).”

James White in the second hour of the June 15, 2022 program, titled “Further Reflections on KJVO & CB.”

Mark Ward at 2022 DBTS Summer Series (July 26) in two lectures under the title: “Confessional Bibliology: A Growing Movement of Reformed KJV-Onlyists.”

To find Andrej's comment on WM 114.

My quote tweet on people "pushing" the Received Text.


Friday, July 08, 2022

The Vision (7.8.22): The Angry Prophet


Image: David Phlox, North Garden, Virginia, July 2022

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's pm service on Jonah 4.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry (Jonah 4:1).

Last Sunday we completed our brief exposition of Jonah by looking at Jonah chapter 4. The book of Jonah is a simple story, but with profound lessons for us. Here are three applications from this final chapter:

First, we learn about the great character of the LORD, the one true God of the Scriptures.

In light of the God’s mercy to Ninevah, Jonah prayed to the LORD, “for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of evil” (v. 2; cf. Exodus 33:18-23; 34:5-7). The LORD so often does NOT pour out upon men the wrath they deserve.

As I heard one contemporary preacher recently quoted: Finding mercy in the God of the Bible is not like trying to get blood from a stone, but water from the ocean.

As the Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes out it: “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”

Second, we learn that the LORD so often works and teaches us through our providential circumstances.

In Jonah we learn how the LORD “prepared” a great fish to swallow the prophet (1:17). He also “prepared” for Jonah a gourd (4:6), a worm (4:7), and a vehement east wind (4:8). Our providential circumstances do not come about by accident or happenstance, but under the meticulous care of a sovereign God. In all our circumstances he puts us in a classroom and teach us how to depend upon and trust in him.

Third, we must ask if we have become “angry” at God’s mercy, as Jonah did.

Jonah became angry at God’s mercy to the Ninevites. One New Testament parallel is the depiction the elder brother in Christ’s parable  of the Lost (Prodigal) Son in Luke 15.

When the elder brother comes home, hears the noise of the party, and discovers that the Father has killed the fatted calf to celebrate his brother’s return, he remains outside sulking. The parable ends with the Father telling him, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should be merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:31-32).

We might ask whether we have been stingy or resentful of God’s mercy. Have we been angry prophets? Who is our Ninevah? Jonah had good reason to hate Ninevah, Israel’s enemy. But Christ taught his disciples, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle