Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sola Scriptura Not McCraney's Alma Mater

This site is not intended as a weekly comment on Shawn McCraney's video screed of things LDS, but his latest attempt at scholarship is surely worth the look, if for no other reason than there are many laughs to be had. This week he addressed the history of scripture and documents in support of it. It perfectly illustrates the statement that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

The point of the presentation was, as Shawn commented several times, how trustworthy the support for the Bible is, and in particular, why such support is to be rationally discerned as opposed to the irrational support for the Book of Mormon.

Sadly, it would be hard to intentionally put so much misinformation about the Bible together even if I did somehow find it objectionable. I personally find it dangerous to peoples' faith to misrepresent the Bible's history, as it comes across as if one is afraid to tell the truth.

For example, Shawn made a big deal about how the translation of the Bible into Latin was an attempt to take it out of the language of the people to manipulate them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The language of Italy and western Christianity was Latin. Translating it into Latin made it available to many more people, as most local priests could read, and therefore could share the Bible to those who generally could not read. The word "Vulgate", as in "Latin Vulgate", means "common", as in the language of common people. Our world "vulgar" has its roots in this meaning, as something was vulgar because it was "of or relating to the common people"(Webster online)., or as the entry for the Vulgate says, "the speech of the common people and especially of uneducated people" .

His explanation of the coming forth of English Bibles was just sad. He never mentions that the King James Bible was very much just a minor revision of Tyndale's work, which was reused up to the time of the KJV. Anyone reading Tyndale will see it immediately.

His explanation of why there are no original documents by Paul or Moses is also embarassing to listen to, as it ignored the fact we have copies of every Old Testament book except Ruth from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to earlier than the New Testament, written on various perishable media. The original letter to Romans, for example, could have been placed in a jar and sealed up to be preserved, just like the DSS.

He never addressed the fact that 300 years after Christ there are no more than 4 or so complete copies of the New Testament known to exist, and no more than 75 total documents or any length by the end of the 4th Century. (See this link for how those NOT of the Christian faith view the manuscript evidence. It is NOT a "rational" position to contend it is uncontested.)

Again, not brought up is any attempt to show how the Book of Mormon could be compared to the Bible texts. For example, the Book of Mormon plates represent a revision of first hand documents and first hand documents compiled by its authors (Mormon and Moroni). It went through a single translation into English, with relatively few translational revisions. The "documents" (the gold plates) were seen by more than a dozen witnesses, and the translation was pronounced by a voice from heaven as being accurate. This compares extremely well to the Bible's various manuscripts, which suffer from anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 textual variations, a few of which are quite important.

Which is something Shawn never discussed. The Tanner's famously wrote of over 3,000 changes to the text of the Book of Mormon, of which less than 100 where actual revisions to the basic text, the rest being various grammatical changes. By contrast, Bruce Metzger published a companion to the Greek New Testament which lists over 1,800 textual variations he felt rose to the level of needing explanations, of which more than 100 were of such a nature that NO determination of what the original text was can be determined from the manuscripts available today.

In trying to explain the support the earliest complete Greek codexes give to the New Testament, Shawn never once discussed the thousands of errors and conflicts between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, or that some groups actually reject them completely (King James Only proponents) because they contradict the vast majority of much younger manuscripts which are typically referred to as Textus Receptus, or the Received Text.

I have said this before, but the New Testament is my favorite volume of scripture, bar none. After nearly 30 years of intensive study, I see the NT as a do a good friend, warts and all, and I accept it as the word of God. Where I have problems with "Sola Scriptura" is the normal falsehood attached to it that it is inerrant. It simply is a false position to contend that the Bible, any Bible, does not have errors within it. The issue is, to me, do these errors in any way matter in terms of salvation? NO! So I can read the Bible, errors and all, and feel the inspiration of the Spirit bear witness of its truth, without fear of being misled. I don't have to try to harmonize why a faith denys the existence of an organized priesthood, the necessity of baptism, or the fact that men can be exalted. I accept the printed words as written. In some cases it helps to know what the Greek or Hebrew texts say. But most of the time the Bible, any Bible, is clear enough that when coupled with living prophets and the inspiration of the Spirit, there is no confusion.

Shawn has a bias against "organized religions". He does not believe any person has to be involved in another person's salvation. In this he is grossly mistaken, for Paul writes:

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? (Rom 10:13-15)

Paul teaches that only those sent by a Church organization, which teaches the Gospel, can teach the real message of salvation.
28 And God hath set some in the church... (1 Cor 12:28)

Once again we see how just reading someone's tract on the history of scripture can leave you a different message than scripture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Shawn’s audience is constantly changing. The people who watched his show two years ago are not the same people who watch it today. Shawn does have a small core group who are loyal to his cause but as for the rest they loose interest fast.

A coworker of mine use to be a middle manager at a multi level marketing company and he is well aware of Shawn and his show. He (my coworker) compares Shawn to a Amway type operation. Those near the top are loyal to the brand but those at the bottom (his audience) lose interest fast, and move on to other things of interest.

Shawn it seams is always trying to introduce a new animal act into his dog and pony show. If it seams he's getting more desperate there’s a reason, the act is getting old and tired. It's only a matter of time before all of his audience evaporates like a puddle of water on a hot summers day.