Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 10, 1964

Destructive Criticism

Robert C. Welch

Recently a letter has come to me in which the statement is made that our papers contain much destructive criticism. As his comment was first considered is seemed that he was making the common objection to criticism. That was not true, however, he referred to destructive criticism of the Scriptures and divine relationships. This letter was in response to a recent article of mine on "The Church Treasury." He objects to the use of the term, and he has a point. As he suggests, we now have church "homes" and church "this or that" until we will soon have church dogs and cats. The Scriptures do not use the word "church" as an adjective. Recent articles have been receiving response, critical and otherwise. That is good. It shows a healthy condition. When what is said is either accepted as fact or ignored as unworthy of consideration, there is danger. But a personal interest and response to teaching and writing has two desirable features: first, is shows alertness in the cause of truth; second, it helps to keep the teacher and writer on the proper course.

Ingersoll used to lecture on what he called the mistakes of Moses. Men could dispose of that as the ravings of an infidel. The destructive critics of the past century did much more damage because they were in the religious fold and sought to discredit the text of the Scriptures. Modernism has added to the damage by considering the text no more than the work of man. Some of their latest destructive effort has been in the production of a new version known as the Revised Standard Version. They did not base their claim for the necessity of a new version on the change in language from the time of the former versions. Instead, they advertized that there were great numbers of mistakes in the existing versions. Instead of strengthening faith in the Scriptures as the inspired and infallible word and will of God, this kind of charge destroys faith. It causes men to ask how we know we have the Bible. If we can have no confidence in the existing versions, as they would, have us think, then how can we be assured that theirs is any better?

We know that this claim by the producers of the late version is from modernists hence we can work in counter attack. But if our own brethren fall inadvertently into this line of criticism as they discuss the merits of various versions they will destroy faith in the hearts of the readers in the infallibility of the word. Articles have appeared recently which have been critical of the King James Version, not altogether on the basis of change in the English language in the past four hundred years, but partially on the charge that there are errors and mistakes in the version and in the translation from ancient manuscripts of other languages. Such criticism will do injury.

One of "our" college professors wrote a year or so ago that we do not need all the Bible to learn our duty to God. What will that do for the faith of the man who has learned that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in Righteousness." (2 Tim. 3:16)? If the professor's words have any effect on the man they will destroy his faith. Other writers in the same journal where this was found suggested that the writers did not need inspiration to say some of the things which are written in the Scriptures. What will that do for the faith of the man who has learned from the apostle, "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth;" (I Cor. 2:13)? If the man pays any attention to what these writers have said he will have his faith destroyed.

Perhaps not all of these things are equally serious, but all come under the category of destructive criticism, especially when viewed from the point of man's faith resting upon the infallible and enduring nature of the word of God. Jesus Christ promised, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:34). Without doubt a better and more easily comprehended translation was possible when the King James version was made; and especially is that true in this century. But that is far different from saying that there are errors or mistakes in the version. Must a man be a scholar of languages both ancient and modern and a scholar of history and archaeology before he can believe that he has the infallible word of God? If I tell a man that there are mistakes in the version which he is reading, how will I prove to him that there is no mistake in the condition, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."? His faith, under such circumstances, must be posed in me as a critic rather than in the text which he can read. What preacher wants such a responsibility resting upon him? Faith comes from hearing the word, not from criticism of some preacher or scholar.

When a version uses a clearer and more easily comprehended word or sentence structure let us be neither afraid nor ashamed to use it. But we can do this without creating doubt about the existence of the word of God. A clearer word or sentence does not mean that the other is an error or mistake. We need to be careful lest inadvertently we take up the tools of the destructive critic.

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