Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - Conclusion

So I conclude what was originally an essay prepared to help people to think through Gail Riplinger's abuse of quotations in NABV.

The previous posts have demonstrated conclusively that Gail Riplinger appears to have a cavalier disregard for the rules of fair play. She alters quotations at will, and appears to think that this is a quite legitimate procedure. She has no regard at all for context, but then, this is true of her use of the Bible as well. To illustrate how the modern versions teach error she compares on P. 106 the AV and the NASB, where she claims the modern versions encourage the seeing of visions. To prove this she cites Colossians 2.18, “taking his stand on visions he has seen.” Of course the problem here is the context, for those who are seeing visions in Colossians 2.18 are false teachers, who are seeking to “defraud you of your prize” (NASB). She falls over Colossians 2 once more on P. 129, where she cites Colossians 2.23 to prove that the new versions encourage asceticism, promoting, “Self-abasement… severe treatment of the body… harsh treatment of the body,” in contrast to the AV’s “humility… neglecting of the body.” But who are spoken of in Colossians 2.23? Those same heretics referred to in 2.18!

It becomes apparent that Riplinger’s present Christian association is with a circle that routinely use single verses plucked out of context to back up their statements, and Riplinger has picked up this bad habit, which she applies to sources other than the Bible. Of course this is not how one ought to do Bible study, and it is certainly not how one reads a book. Context is king. Words do not have meanings on their own, but placed in a context, something Riplinger seems dimly to understand in some places, but which she generally ignores. Thus, for example, she spends Pp. 559-80 doing something exceedingly strange with The Shepherd of Hermas. What she does is take words and phrases from the Shepherd and place opposite them quotations from the Bible, that are in completely different contexts, to 'prove' that the Shepherd is an occultic work (or something like that, anyway, otherwise the whole thing is just pointless). Thus on P. 561 she notes that the Shepherd contains the phrase “delivered unto him”, and cross references this with, “Luke 4.6 records, ‘the devil said… that is delivered unto me.’” But Matthew 11.27 records that Jesus said, “All things are delivered unto me.” Why must we understand that the Shepherd is not referring to Christ here?

On P. 563 she quotes from the Shepherd, “The gate was made recent that they which are to be saved may enter.” Opposite she writes, “This Calvinistic predestination statement appears in numerous new versions, particularly the NIV… the gate here referred to is the ‘wide gate… that leadeth to destruction’ (Matt. 7.13) and the ‘gates of hell’ (Matt. 16.18).” Now, what fair-minded person would conclude such a thing? Is it not in fact apparent from the context that this is intended to be “the gate… which leadeth unto life’ (Matt. 7.14), "made recently" by the death of Jesus Christ? Only by taking single word and phrases out of context can Riplinger make the Shepherd appear to be a New Age work, rather than what it is, an early Christian allegory. It would be very easy to show that Riplinger is herself a New Age heretic by using this method on her writings! For example, on P.315 she writes: “‘Christ’ takes centre stage in the new versions as Satan attempts to move the true God… into the wings.” I have of course omitted the words “Jesus Christ,” but this is no more than Riplinger does with Westcott when she omits "but assumes" from the phrase, "He does not expressly affirm but assumes the identification of the Word with Jesus Christ." Of course, this would is highly unfair, but that is rather the point! If it is wrong for me to quote Riplinger like this, why is it right for her to quote others this way?

I would note that Riplinger, like all too many Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, regards anything outside of her own system of belief as not only wrong but actually heretical. Most well-known in this regard is her attitude towards Calvinism, which she has called “heretical”, stating that the “five points form a satanic pentagram,” a form of argument that has no basis in reason at all. Most notorious, however, ought to be her denial of the eternal Sonship of Christ. Gail Riplinger holds to an ‘Incarnational Sonship’, that is, that Jesus is called ‘the only-begotten Son of God’ because of the miracle of His birth. Although this has been a minority position frowned on by most of the Church, it is not a heresy, just an error[1]. Riplinger, however, condemns as heretical the teaching of the eternal Sonship! On P. 337 she writes, “Begotten is used in reference to the body of ‘flesh’ ‘beheld’ by mankind.” Thus, to her mind, any reference to the Father ‘begetting’ the Son eternally is heresy. Now, she is at liberty to use the word ‘begotten’ however she likes in her own theology (even if she is wrong), what she is not at liberty to do is to read her own minority understanding of this word into the writings of others. Yet on P. 344 she cites Edwin Palmer’s statement, “The Holy Spirit did not beget the Son” as if it refers to the incarnation and not to inter-Trinitarian relationships. Although she has disclaimed this intent, why else would she have juxtaposed a quotation from a Mormon source? She certainly gives the impression that Palmer and Brigham young are referring to the same thing.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that she has been tempted to twist Westcott’s quotations as she has. What is most appalling is just how completely she has yielded to that temptation. Riplinger liberally sprinkles the book with dishonestly doctored quotations from those she opposes. I have concentrated on quotations from a single source, Bishop Westcott, because as a full-time minister I have to spend most of my time preaching the Gospel - which is as it ought to be. Unlike Riplinger's son-in-law, I am not an evangelist for a Bible version, but for Jesus Christ (see Hazardous Materials). Westcott is quoted often, and I happened to possess several volumes of his works. I came to Riplinger’s book with an open mind, but having examined the quotations from Westcott, I find I cannot trust any of her quotations without examining them for myself. A defender of Mrs. Riplinger has written on this blog that he admires her spirit. I would like to ask how any Christian can admire the spirit of a person who uses the words of others as I have documented Riplinger using the words of Bishop Westcott. We are faced with a choice, either Riplinger is completely ignorant, and unable to understand a word of what Westcott said, or she is dishonest. In either case she is unfitted to write books, and disqualified from teaching Christians. One is in fact left with serious doubts about her salvation, for “… all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” according to Revelation 21.8, and “whatsoever… maketh a lie” shall “in no wise enter into” the New Jerusalem” (Rev. 21.27).

Pray for Gail Riplinger that she repents and withdraws this book.

Lone Footnote:
[1] I use the common theological terminology, referring only to those departures from the historic faith that undermine the fundamentals as ‘heresies’, and other wrong theological ideas as ‘errors’

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 9

So we have come to our final category of dishonest quotation. This is a less serious category in some ways, but it is still:

5. When an illegitimate inference is drawn from a quotation.

In fact it would be possible to charge Mrs. Riplinger with serious theological error in this regard, for she cites statements that Jesus is fully man as if to say so meant that he is not also God! On P. 304 she quotes from Westcott's Historic Faith: “Christ was and is perfectly man,[1]” as if it is a heretical statement. Now, if Westcott had said that Christ was perfectly man and nothing else, it would be questionable, but of course he did not! In fact he had already taught in the same book that “His Godhead is one with the Godhead of the Father.”[2] Westcott was an orthodox Trinitarian, as any perusal of his works will more than make clear, and as our series has shown!

On P. 368 Riplinger asserts that Westcott “Believed Jesus had sinned.” She refers the reader to P. 35 of Westcott’s John. Nothing on that page necessarily indicates that Westcott believed Jesus was a sinner; this has to be read into what Westcott wrote. It may be that she is thinking of this passage:

“All that truly belongs to humanity, all therefore that belongs to every individual in the whole race, belongs also to Him.”

But to say that includes sin is to beg the question, to assume what has to be proved. Many theologians deny that sin can be said to ‘truly belong’ to humanity as created, and that it is therefore an interloper. Then again, it may be she is thinking of what he says concerning the “weakness” of the incarnate Christ:

“As ‘the Son of Man’ He is revealed to the eyes of His first martyr, that Christians may learn that which is begun in weakness shall be completed in eternal majesty.”

But then it is incumbent upon Riplinger to prove that Westcott necessarily equated sin and weakness. Westcott’s own writings do not allow us to say that he did, however, for, writing on Hebrews 5.2, Westcott says,

“Weakness does not absolutely involve sin, so that the weakness and the sin, even in the case of man as he is, are two separate elements. In the case of the human High-priest weakness actually issued in sin. In this respect the parallel with Christ fails. But it has been seen (iv.15) that a sense of the power of the temptation and not the being overpowered by it is the true ground of sympathy. Comp. vii.27.”[3]

Thus we find that Riplinger is once again guilty of libel against Westcott. She has stated that he denied the sinlessness of Christ, apparently making an inference from his use of the word ‘weakness’ to describe Christ’s condition in His humiliation, but when we examine his use of the word ‘weakness;, we find that as Westcott used it, it did not involve sin. Turning to his exposition of Hebrews 4.15, “Tempted in every way like as we are, yet without sin,” a passage that expressly deals with the sinlessness of Christ, we find that Westcott has this to say:

“The words are capable of two distinct interpretations. They may (1) simply describe the issue of the Lord’s temptation, so far as He endured all without the least stain of sin (c. vii.2). Or they may (2) describe a limitation to His temptation. Man’s temptations come in many cases from previous sin. Such temptations had necessarily no place in Christ. He was tempted as we are, sharing our nature, yet with this exception, that there was no sin in him to become the spring of trial.”[4]

So, having gone to a place where the question of the sinlessness of Christ (note that Westcott here, as elsewhere, uses ‘Christ’ to describe the Incarnate Son) is expressly dealt with, we find that Westcott affirmed it. Of course, the fact that Riplinger does not refer her readers to Westcott on Hebrews 4.15 should raise warning signs. If a man has written on Hebrews, then his comment on Hebrews 4.15 will settle once and for all what he thought about the sinlessness of Christ! Note that Westcott gives two options as to what the passage may mean, neither is an attempt to evade the force of the statement "yet without sin." One can only conclude that Riplinger did not refer to Westcott on Hebrews 4.15 because she is not interested in the truth.

Thus end the quotations. The conclusion will follow, God willing, tomorrow.

Supplementary Note:

On P. 213 Riplinger, arguing that the modern versions call into question the historicity of some Biblical characters, quotes Westcott as saying: “David is not a chronological… person.” She cites P. 127 of Vol 2 of westcott's Life. Nothing on this page corresponds to her quotation, as this is a place where there is an error in the reference - the notes in NABV have not been checked very well. Reading Westcott's Life again, I came across the genuine quotation on P. 147. The real quote reads in context:

“David is not a chronological, but a spiritual person in relation, e.g. to Ps cx.”[5]

Note again that Riplinger has universalised a statement that refers to a very specific context, namely a Messianic Psalm. Certainly David is a spiritual figure in Psalm 110, and it is disingenuous to cite a phrase with a specific context as if it were a denial of David’s historicity – which it is not.

[1] The passage may be found in Historic Faith P. 62
[2] P. 49. Westcott uses 'Godhead' in the archaic sense of 'deity' here, not as a technical term for the Trinity. Compare Colossians 2.9 in the AV. Despite Gail Riplinger's insistence that 'Godhead' always means the Trinity (P. 379), if it is understood to mean 'Trinity' here, then it must follow that the whole Trinity became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Certain 'Oneness' Pentecostals indeed use this verse in the AV to promote their own heresy that there is only one person who is God. A familiarity with older Christian writers' use of the word 'godhead' would have preserved Riplinger from this error.
[3] Hebrews P. 122
[4] Ibid. P. 108, emphasis added
[5] Life Vol. 2 P. 147

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 8

Continuing the cavalcade of Riplinger's wretched wrenched references, we come to quotation twist No.

4. Where a quotation is carefully altered to say what Mrs. Riplinger wants it to say. This is the most blatant form of false quotation, the sort everyone recognises as such. It is therefore not surprising that Riplinger uses it sparingly, but sadly it is not surprising that, when she feels she can get away with it, she does not hesitate to change the wording of the original.

On P. 234 she writes: “He [Westcott] has ‘great difficulty with the notion of sacrifice and vicarious punishment.’” This is a doctored quotation from Life Vol. I. P. 231. But Westcott does not say what Riplinger makes him say. In fact the full quotation is as follows:

“He preached on the atonement. But who is equal to such a subject? What he said was very good, but then he did not enter into the great difficulties of the notion of sacrifice and vicarious punishment…”

Note what Riplinger has done. Taking a sentence fragment, she has inserted the word ‘with’, without any warrant in the text being quoted and changed “difficulties” to “difficulty.” Why? To make Westcott say that he had doubts about the doctrine of the atonement, rather than saying that it is a difficult subject for a minister to preach about!

P. 304 contains another example of this, although this time it is an unnoticed omission in the original, where she quotes Westcott as saying, “He does not expressly affirm the identification of the Word with Jesus Christ.” This quotation comes from Westcott’s John P. 16. Turning to the relevant page, we find that she has omitted two vital words without telling us. Indeed, it would have been ruinous for her to have included those words, for the full quotation is:

“He does not expressly affirm but assumes the identification of the Word with Jesus Christ.”[1]

From Riplinger’s version of the quotation one gets the impression that Westcott is denying that the person of Jesus Christ is to be identified with the Word of the prologue to John’s Gospel, when in fact Westcott’s position is exactly opposite! Sadly I can only assume that this is a dishonest and deliberate omission. Not only does Riplinger not indicate the omission, but the actual quotation affirms what she wants to imply Westcott denied. She juxtaposes this quotation with two more, firstly from Historic Faith P. 62, “Christ was and is perfectly man.” This, of course, is a fact that all Christians affirm. Unless Riplinger holds to a heretical Christology, she must herself affirm that “Christ was and is perfectly man.” Second from P 297 of Westcott’s John, “He never spoke directly of himself as God.” I have already dealt with the context of this twice. Suffice to say that in context Westcott affirms the deity of Christ, arguing that Jesus leads us to confess Him as God without Him having expressly stated that He is God. Not one of these quotations in context denies the deity of Christ, and in fact two expressly affirm the doctrine, yet Riplinger uses them as if they deny it!

On P. 313 she gives the quotation:

“The Son of Man was not necessarily identified with the Christ.”

She juxtaposes it with a quotation from Madame Blavatsky that reads in part: “The Christ with the Gnostics mean [sic] the impersonal principle… not Jesus… Jesus the’Christ’God is a myth.” Now, in context, Westcott writes on P. 184 of his John:

“The question clearly shews that the title, ‘the Son of Man’ was not necessarily identified with ‘the Christ.’”[2]

The omission of Westcott’s inverted commas, and of the vital phrase “the title”, has made it appear that the Bishop is denying that Jesus is the Christ, when in fact it is a discussion of titles, stating that the two titles, ‘Son of Man’ and ‘Christ’ were not necessarily seen as synonymous in 1st century Jewish thought.

On P. 349 Riplinger attempts to charge Westcott with the adoptionist heresy that Jesus became ‘the Christ’ at His baptism. She quotes:

“We realise the perfect humanity of Christ… at this crisis [baptism] first became ‘conscious’ as a man of a power of the spirit within him.”

This is from P. 23 of Westcott’s John. The words Riplinger has put in bold are compared with New Age quotations asserting that Jesus received the Christ power at baptism. But Westcott actually wrote:

“At the same time we cannot but believe (so far as we realise the perfect humanity of Christ) that Christ at this crisis first became conscious as man of a power of the Spirit within Him corresponding to the new form of His work.
“For the rest it will be seen that the narratives of this event lend no support to the Ebionitic view that the Holy Spirit was first imparted to Christ at His baptism; or to the Gnostic view that the Logos was then united to the man Jesus.”

Note first of all that Westcott expressly denies the very heresy Riplinger tries to charge him with – whatever he means, he cannot mean that! It is a principle in theological controversy that a man ought not to be charged with a heresy that he explicitly denies. This is made more certain by the fact that Westcott denies the heresy in the very context Riplinger is quoting from! Secondly, the omission of brackets that are in the original give the impression that Westcott is saying something he is not. That Jesus at His baptism first became aware that He was prepared for His public ministry is surely not false but a truism! Certainly it does not follow that to say as much is to hold to an Adoptionist Christology! And if Mrs. Riplinger's defeders reply that she merely said it sounded like Adoptionism, then what, pray, was the point of quoting it? Only the age-old principle that if you throw enough mud some of it is sure to stick!

On P. 424 we have another example of Riplinger essentially making things up. She writes: “Arthur Westcott recalls his father’s tradition of reading Goblin stories at Christmas.” She references Life, Vol. ii, P. 185. There we read:

“On Christmas day he enters: ‘evening reading: Andersen: Goblin Market.’ The meaning of this is that after we had, in family conclave assembled, exchanged Christmas gifts, receiving them with appropriate words from my father’s hands, he read to us, according to ancient custom, a fairy tale. This was always a great treat, reserved exclusively for Christmas Day.”

The reference is in fact to reading the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, an activity very many parents have engaged in with their children. While one may disapprove of a Bishop reading fairy stories to his children, only the most narrow-minded fundamentalist would see anything sinister in it! This is probably why Riplinger has changed it to the much more sinister-sounding “Goblin stories.” Why? Because Riplinger is determined to make Westcott appear to be the most monstrous and cunning villain, not to mention one of the worst heretics in history (with the other one as his friend Hort.

Next time, God willing, we shall deal with the final category of doctored quotations. By now we have seen more than enough evidence to charge Riplinger with deliberate falsification of the evidence, and if any reader can still admire this woman, well, he is beyond reason.

Footnotes! Footnotes! Footnotes! Get your footnotes here!
[1] Emphasis added
[2] Emphasis added

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation: - 7

Continuing Riplinger's composite quotation extravaganza...

On P. 274 we find another manufactured quotation. This time Westcott is made to say:

“The universal fatherhood of God… a brotherhood of nations… [is] the destiny of mankind.”

The notes refer us to Life Vol. II, P. 22; History of Religious Thought P. 351, and John P. 159. “Universal fatherhood” seems to come from John P. 159, though there it is not in the full phrase given by Riplinger. Instead we read:

“The thought, which is concrete in v. 28, is here traced back to its most absolute form as resting on the essential power of God in His relation of universal Fatherhood.”

This is part of a comment on John 10.29, the term “universal Fatherhood” is used only in passing. We turn to the next book from which this composite quotation has been manufactured, Life Vo. 2, P. 22:

“Christianity rests upon the central fact that the Word became flesh. This fact establishes not only a brotherhood of men, but also a brotherhood of nations; for history has shown that nations are an element in the fulfilment of the Divine counsel, by which humanity advances towards its appointed end.”

You will note that the “brotherhood of nations” that Westcott refers to is not a future thing – the Antichrist one-world government that Riplinger’s eschatology calls for – but a present reality. This then leads us to the final, and most wickedly used, sentence fragment: “The destiny of mankind” seems to be a slightly altered quotation from History of Religious Thought P. 351. This is taken completely out of context and wedded with a quotation from another context. In context it tells us that:

“Again, we may not be able to see far into the application of these lessons; but it becomes intelligible that if the virtue of Christ’s life and death was made available for man through suffering – if it was through suffering that He fulfilled the destiny of man fallen – the appropriation of that which He has gained may be carried into effect through the same law. The mystery of the forgiveness of sins is fulfilled, and we can bear cheerfully the temporal consequences of sin.”[1]

Passing over the alteration of ‘man’ to ‘mankind’ as unimportant, we see the great objection to Riplinger’s abuse of this sentence fragment – which is that it has nothing to do with “a brotherhood of nations” at all! It refers to the work of Jesus Christ for us sinners, in His suffering and death. It refers to Jesus obedience unto death. Here three sentence fragments have been taken from three different contexts in three different books and strung together into a single manufactured quotation! Most egregious is the use of “the destiny of man,” which has been taken from a Christological passage and placed in a non-Christological context to apparently complete this pretended quotation. It makes me wonder, what kind of a person thinks that this is a fair use of quotations?

On P. 313 she gives the quotation:

“It is not said that Jesus glorified not himself, but the Christ. He never speaks directly of Himself as God.”

She juxtaposes it with a quotation from Madame Blavatsky that reads in part: “The Christ with the Gnostics mean [sic] the impersonal principle… not Jesus… Jesus the-Christ-God is a myth.” There is nothing on the page to indicate that this is not a complete quotation from a single source. It is not, it is another composite quotation. The first sentence fragment comes from Westcott’s Hebrews P. 124 (not 122 as Riplinger’s notes have it). The full quotation from Westcott is as follows, commenting on Hebrews 5.5, “So Christ also glorified not Himself to become High Priest.”

“The title of the office emphasises the idea of the perfect obedience of the Lord even in the fullness of His appointed work. It is not said that ‘Jesus’ glorified not Himself, but ‘the Christ,’ the appointed Redeemer, glorified not Himself.”

Note two things. Firstly, Riplinger has omitted Westcott’s inverted commas. Secondly, she has not referred to the context. It is an inescapable fact that Hebrews 5.5 says “the Christ (the article appears in every Greek manuscript) also glorified not Himself to become High Priest.” Since the Bible says this, why quote it as if this was some awful heretical statement? We have already met with the other part of this manufactured quotation on P. 303, “He [in context Jesus] never spoke directly of himself as God.” But the full quotation is:

“He never speaks of Himself directly as God, but the aim of His revelation was to lead men to see God in Him.” (John P. 297)

The context, as we have seen, is a comment on Thomas’ confession “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28). What Westcott is saying is that while Jesus does not ever say “I am God”, everything He says and does lead us to confess that He is God, and is intended to do so! Westcott could hardly be further from Blavatsky, as he boldly confesses the deity of Jesus, and that Jesus alone is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.[2]

Another composite quotation is found on P. 339. It reads:

“It is impossible to suppose that two beings distinct in essence could be equal in power. We find ourselves met by difficulty which belongs to the idea of begetting… if we keep both [Arianism and Sabellianism] before us we may hope to attain to that knowledge of the truth.”

Riplinger claims that this shows “a kind of semi-Arianism.”[3] The trouble is that in fact it is Riplinger who is teaching theological error here. She denies the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ, holding instead that Jesus has the title ‘Son’ solely on the basis of the incarnation. Thus she refers the phrase ‘only-begotten’ to the incarnation – which she is at liberty to do, of course, even though she’s wrong. What she is not at liberty to do is declare that the historic faith, which has always referred the begetting to the inter-Trinitarian relations, is “semi-Arian.” When Westcott refers to the “eternal generation” of the Son, he does not mean that the Son is a created being. In order to make it appear that Westcott teaches Semi-Arianism, she has manufactured this quotation from statements in two different books. The first is from Westcott’s John P. 159:

“It seems clear that the unity [in John 10.30 of Father and Son] cannot fall short of unity of essence. The thought springs from the equality of power (my hand, the Father’s hand); but infinite power is an essential attribute of God; and it is impossible to suppose that two beings distinct in essence could be equal in power.”

So there we have it, Westcott is affirming that the Son is of one essence with the Father. Since Arianism denies this, and Semi-Arianism holds that Christ is merely of a like essense with the Father, it follows that Westcott cannot be Semi-Arian. He is affirming explicitly the Homoousia, which is the mark of Trinitarian orthodoxy against Arian and semi-Arian heresy. But then, having given a fragment from this page, without giving any indication in the text, Riplinger jumps to another context and another book, Historic Faith P. 202 (her note says P. 204, but this is a mistake. P. 204 contains only a quotation from Matt. 11.27). This quotation has been mangled and actually changed. It reads:

“If we rest in the thought of ‘the only son’ and try to pursue that thought alone to the remoter consequences which seem to be involved in it, we find ourselves met by difficulties which belong to the ideas of beginning, of material existence, of separate individuality. If again we think of coessentiality only, then little by little the conception of three distinct, eternal Persons in the one God fades away. There is on the one side of the twofold Truth an affinity, if I may so speak, to the modes of thought which issue in Arianism (the ‘dividing the Divine substance’ ‘essence’), and on the otherside an affinity to the modes of thought which issue in Sabellianism (the ‘confounding the Divine Persons’)… So much at least is certain, disastrous results answering to these typical forms of error follow from an exclusive development of one side or other of the complex Truth; but if we keep both sides before us we may hope to attain, so far as the end is within our reach, to that knowledge of the whole Truth which belong to man.”

Note that what we are to “keep… before us” are not two heresies, but rather the two Biblical truths of the three Persons and the one God. What he wants us to do is simply to embrace the whole of the Biblical teaching! Nor does he refer to “difficulty which belongs to the idea of begetting,” at all. I am afraid that what Riplinger is guilty of here is simply dishonesty, which has necessitated my quoting most of a page of Historic Faith to give the context in which the words appear. It will be seen that Westcott is cautioning against a one-sided dwelling on one Biblical truth to the detriment of another. If this is “semi-Arian”, then the Nicene Creed is semi-Arian – which of course it is not!

More amazingly altered quotations next time, as we come to type 4.

[1] B.F. Westcott, History of Religious Thought (London, Macmillan, 1891)
[2] Note: The heresy of Blavatsky and the Gnostics is found precisely in this, that they deny the identification of Jesus of Nazareth with the Christ, while Westcott, with all Christians, affirms that identification.
[3] NABV P. 339

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 6

Continuing our examination of the staggering dishonest with which Gail Riplinger treats the words of those whe disagrees with, we come to quote abuse type:

3. When a quotation is manufactured out of sentence fragments taken from diverse sources, including multiple books, yet presented as if it were from a single context.

This is probably the most common abuse of quotations that Mrs. Riplinger is guilty of. Of course, these composite quotations are constructed of phrases taken out of context, and often constitute new and misleading contexts.

There are many examples of this, but among the worst is that which appears on P. 187. Here Riplinger gives the following manufactured[1] Westcott quote:

“[T]he knowledge of Christ… has its analogues in human power… the Son of Man gives the measure of the capacity of humanity… nothing implies that the knowledge of the Lord was supernatural.”

The footnote refers us to: Historic Faith Pp. 258-259; John, pp. 66, 46. This should immediately set alarm bells ringing, for this is not a single quotation, or even from a single book, let alone a single context. From Westcott’s John she has selected “nothing implies that the knowledge of the Lord was supernatural” from P. 66, and “[T]he knowledge of Christ… has its analogues in human power” from P. 46. The rest of the matter appears to be derived from Historic Faith, but the page reference given appears to be incorrect, and I have been unable to locate the correct reference. Even if these three places were dealing with the same subject, it is not correct to string the words together as though the distance between “nothing implies that the knowledge of the Lord was supernatural” and “[T]he knowledge of Christ” was the same as that between “[T]he knowledge of Christ” and “has its analogues in human power,” to say nothing as to the impropriety of manufacturing a quotation from elements found in different books! Nor is Westcott discussing in any of these places the question of human knowledge, but the question of Jesus’ knowledge during His time on earth! The quotation, “nothing implies that the knowledge of the Lord was supernatural” is in fact in relation to Jesus knowing a specific fact, namely that “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.”[2] It has nothing at all to say about Jesus knowledge of information at other times!

P. 260 contains the following composite quotation that appears to be a single, if edited, quotation:

“[It is] significant that the original only gives ‘words’ without the definite article… the religions of the world surrender to a supreme king. … and are not far from the Kingdom.”

Only by consulting the notes is it apparent that this too is not a complete quotation, but is drawn from three different places, and three completely different contexts. The first part comes from Life ii. P. 72, where it is part of a criticism of an essay by another man. The second fragment comes from History of Religious Thought P. 358, in context it reads:

“[I]f, on the other hand, it is obvious that the religions of the world each touched the hearts of men by a power of order or devotion, of sympathy with nature or of surrender to a supreme King, then each prae-Christian [sic] religion becomes a witness to the Faith which combines these manifold powers in a final unity.”

First of all, the passage simply does not say what Riplinger wants it to say, that “the religions of the world surrender to a supreme King,” but that the religions of the world each seek that which Christianity only supplies. Secondly, she has omitted almost twenty words between “the religions of the world” and “surrender” in order to manufacture out of Westcott’s words what she wants him to say, and that without indicating it! The final words “and are not far from the Kingdom” come from Historic Faith P. 54. The immediate context is as follows:

“It is a truism to say that Christianity is a belief in Christ, but is it not a forgotten truism? We honour with ungrudging admiration those who labour with zeal and patience to shield the weak from injury, the poor from want, and the ignorant from temptation; who hope to elevate the condition of our artisans by giving their opinion the responsibility of power, and to discipline the improvident by ideas of comfort and self-respect: those who investigate the problems of religious thought, and seek to shew how circumstances of time and place call out this and that want, this and that belief, and lay open the manifold elements of truth which give whatever stability and strength to the religions of the world: those who in lonely meditation strive to reconnect man’s spirit to its source. Such are not far from the Kingdom of God; but as yet they are not Christians.
“Christianity is not philanthropy, or philosophy or mysticism.”[3]

In context what Westcott is saying is about individual persons, not “the religions of the world.” It is part of a passage denying the identification of Christianity with “philanthropy, or philosophy or mysticism,” an identification Riplinger also would deny. In fact, Westcott is asserting the necessity of faith in Christ for a person to be identified as a Christian! By taking two sentence fragments out of context, Riplinger has created a quotation that is simply false. If anyone objects that Westcott did believe what the fraudulent quotation says, it is incumbent upon that person to prove it. In fact, If Westcott had believed this and taught it (and the only way to know Westcott believed it is if he taught it), it would not have been necessary for Riplinger to manufacture a quotation for the purpose.

Additional Note: Did Westcott lose his voice?

Since writing the section on Westcott's supposed losing his voice, I have discovered new evidence that proves conclusively that Riplinger's quotations do not prove that Westcott lost his voice. On P. 448 Riplinger claims that Westcott lost his voice, citing quotations from Westcott’s biography, claiming:
“Westcott’s biographer cites that in 1858 ‘he was quite inaudible’ and by 1870 ‘his voice reached few and was understood by still fewer…’”

We are referred to P. 198 and P. 272 of Arthur Westcott’s Life and Letters of B.F. Westcott for these quotations. What strikes one on examination of these is first of all that both are from Westcott’s earlier life, not later (both relate to his time as a schoolmaster at Harrow), leading one to wonder if he had in fact never had the voice Riplinger suggests he had lost. On referring to P. 272, we find that Riplinger has omitted a most important part of the passage she is quoting. The full passage is as follows:

“His voice was not yet a force in the chapel. It reached but a few, and it was understood by still fewer.”

Riplinger omits the suggestive not yet. It would be more accurate to say, then, that Westcott found his voice, rather than lost it! This impression is confirmed by Arthur Westcott, who writes in Life P. 302:

“His voice did, as he had anticipated, marvellously improve with practice, and he who in earlier life had not dared to preach in a large church was not afraid in his advanced years of preaching in St Paul’s Cathedral or York Minster, and made himself fairly audible even in the Albert Hall, by reason of the great pains he bestowed on distinct articulation.”

There is no evidence Westcott lost his voice (otherwise Riplinger would have quoted it), and all the evidence shows that he in fact developed his voice. So why has Riplinger invented this spurious fact? Because she wants to give the impression that Westcott was under some sort of divine judgement for his work on the Revised Version and the new edition Greek New Testament. Thus, unable to find any real 'judgement' she can cite, she claims he lost his voice, when he did not! Ironically his gaining his voice coincides with his work on the Greek N.T., but that's another matter entirely!

[1] I use the word not because Westcott did not write the words, but because Westcott did not put them together as they appear in NABV
[2] John 4.1
[3] Emphasis in original. I have given a more than usually full citation to ensure that no-one will claim that I am misrepresenting Westcott.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation -5

Having dealt with the first type of dishonest quotation practised by Riplinger, we come to the second:

2. When a quotation is dishonestly given, either by the abuse of ellipses or by taking a sentence fragment out of context.

The worst example of this is not a quotation of Westcott, but definitely worth quoting. It is found on P. 580, where she states that the Epistle of Barnabas reads: “Satan… is Lord.” On referring to Chapter 18 of the Epistle of Barnabas we find that it is a comparison of the two ways,

“One of light, and the other of darkness. But there is a great difference between these two ways. For over one are stationed the light-bringing angels of God, but over the other the angels of Satan. And He is Lord for ever and ever, but he is prince of the time of iniquity.”[1]

Note the construction of the passage. Each sentence is composed of two antithetical statements, the first referring to God and His way, the second to Satan and his way. It is apparent that Riplinger has missed this point,[2] and so she has referred the first half of the last sentence to the subject of the second half of the preceding sentence. Common sense at least should have taught her that a professing Christian would not have penned a letter in which he stated that Satan is Lord! Giving the full quotation would have proven that this was a careless misreading of the text.

On P.304 Riplinger quotes from P. 297 of Westcott’s John[3], “He [in context Jesus] never spoke directly of himself as God.” But the full quotation is:

“He never speaks of Himself directly as God, but the aim of His revelation was to lead men to see God in Him.”

The context is a comment on Thomas’ confession “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28). What Westcott is saying is what I said from the pulpit this morning – that while Jesus does not ever say “I am God”, everything He says and does lead us to confess that He is God, and is intended to do so! God worked slowly and carefully with the disciples, enlightening them by degrees, so that the man who at first they regarded as a merely human teacher they finally confessed to be Lord and God.

On P. 317 Riplinger quotes Westcott: “The belief is ‘in Christ’ not in any propositions about Christ.” This comes from P. 200 of Westcott’s John. It is a comment on John 14.1, “Believe in God and believe in Me” (Westcott’s translation). Note please what the text reads, “Believe in me.” Who is speaking? Jesus of Nazareth. The comment reads:

“The double imperative suits the context best. The changed order of the object (believe in God and in me believe) marks the development of the idea. ‘Believe in God, and yet more than this, let your faith find in Me one on whom it can rest.’ The simultaneous injunction of faith in God and in Christ under the same conditions implies the divinity of Christ… the belief is ‘in Christ,’ and not in any propositions about Christ.”[4]

Note that Westcott here assumes the identity of Jesus and ‘Christ’. The ‘Christ’ in whom one is to believe is Jesus of Nazareth, there is no other. Secondly, all Christians recognise that saving faith is not in propositions, but in a person. Only by the use of propositional language do we know who that person is, but to believe the propositions alone is not enough to save. Saving faith is a confidence in Jesus, not the intellectual assent to certain factual statements. It would be possible to use this statement to prove that Riplinger is a heretic who teaches the Sandemanian heresy, that faith is mere intellectual assent. This would be unfair, of course, not to mention probably untrue, but it is typical of the sort of thing Riplinger says all the time!

On P. 347 we find the following statement by Riplinger, who is attempting to prove the impossible, that Westcott did not identify Jesus of Nazareth as “Christ”:

“Bob Larson points out that Christ ‘refers to Jesus not an office.’ The new versions and their editors fit the label ‘New Age’ once again. ‘It is commonly supposed,’ writes Westcott, that Hebrews 1.8 defends the deity of Christ, whereas it is merely a description of his ‘office.’”

This refers to Westcott’s Hebrews[5], P. 26, where the full quotation reads:

“It is commonly supposed that the force of the quotation lies in the divine title (ho theos) which, as it is held, is applied to the Son. It seems however from the whole form of the argument to lie rather in the description which is given of the Son’s office and endowment. The angels are subject to constant change, He has a dominion for ever and ever; they work through material powers, He – the Incarnate Son – fulfils a moral sovereignty and is crowned with unique joy.”

Note first of all that Westcott does not say that Hebrews 1.8 does not defend the deity of Christ (it is better in any case to say that Heb. 1.8 asserts rather than ‘defends’ the deity of Christ), but rather that the force of the argument for the deity of Christ in the passage is in “the description which is given of the Son’s office and endowment.” Westcott, let it be noted (proof will be given) identified Jesus with the Christ, but it is also true that ‘Christ’ is not a name but an office, that of Messiah. Now it is an office that belongs exclusively to the incarnate Son of God, but it is still an office.

On the same page, P. 347, Riplinger further quotes Westcott:

“One, truly man, fulfilled a divine office, that [is] Jesus.”

She juxtaposes this with a quotation from the New Age Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ:

“In the esoteric tradition the Christ is not the name of an individual but of an office in the hierarchy.”

Firstly this is an example of a fallacy Riplinger commits over and over again, identifying writers as heretics because they use certain words. Heresy often does not lie in words, but in the content with which they are filled. An example which I have used in preaching is the phrase “The only begotten Son of God.” To a Christian this means Jesus, who is of one essence with the Father, co-eternal with Him. ‘God’ to the Christian refers to an eternal spiritual being who created all things. A Mormon, however, says the same thing, but by ‘God’ he means an exalted man who once lived on another planet, and who became a god! By ‘only-begotten’ he means that that exalted man had sexual relations with Mary of Nazareth, and from that physical union was born Jesus, who is spiritually the first-born of that god and one of his spirit-wives, and the brother of us all. They use the same words, but give them completely different meanings.
But what does Westcott actually write? The full quotation is found on P. 47 of Historic faith, which is part of the lecture on the clause “and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord”:

“The phrase, Jesus Christ is more than a name, more than a title. It expresses that one truly man fulfilled a divine office, that Jesus who was born, suffered, died on earth, is the Christ, the hope of Israel, the hope of the world. And we declare our belief in Him as true man and as the Christ.”

In addition to the comma she has added, probably by mistake, Riplinger has added the ‘is’, and placed a period where none exists in the original. While the New Age position is given by Riplinger as, “in their view, ‘he perfected himself through various spiritual disciples until he was a suitable habitation for ‘the Christ’ consciousness.” Westcott says that Jesus “is the Christ.” Note, not “was”, not “was the vessel of”, but is. No New Ager would or could say that!

On P. 408 Riplinger writes: “Their subversive and clandestine approach continued, as seen ten years later when Westcott writes, “… strike blindly… and much evil would result from the publics discussion.” The true version is found on P. 229 of Westcott’s Life. In fact Westcott wrote:

“Have you entered into the Maurice controversy? I only hope it may pass away quietly. At the first onset we always strike blindly; and much evil would result from the public discussion of the moot points just now. It is well, I believe, that they have been named; and it will be well for men to get familiarised with them. Then at length they may debate if they please.”[6]

First of all, “… strike blindly” is not an imperative, it is an indicative. Westcott is describing the early stages of a controversy, and urging caution and delay in entering into controversy. There is in fact nothing “subversive and clandestine” to be found in these words. Riplinger has deliberately butchered a quotation to make it appear sinister! Note also that Westcott does not write, “And much evil would result from the public discussion.” Instead he wrote: “and much evil would result from the public discussion of the moot points just now.” It makes all the difference to see the fuller context!

On P. 352 she writes: “Even Westcott admits, ‘Origen, in a word, laid down the lines of systematic… criticism.’” Westcott does no such thing. In fact he wrote:

“Origen, in a word, first laid down the lines of a systematic study of the Bible. Both in criticism and in interpretation his labours marked an epoch.”[7]

Words have been omitted to make Westcott say something he does not. Of course, Westcott does not see Bible Criticism as a bad thing, so it’s hardly an admission on his part to say Origen engaged in it. The ‘Criticism’ of the Bible means the study of its text in its history, not disagreeing with it and picking it apart – which is where the criticism of Riplinger differs from the criticism of the Bible!

Next time we will come to Riplinger's favourite method for falsifying a quotation. And don't say I'm being mean - remember that she is the one who made accusations backed up with doctored quotations!

Additional Note:
It has been suggested that Riplinger is not in error because she is "reading between the lines" of Westcott. This is a mere excuse, an exercise in smoke and mirrors. Unless Riplinger is in possession of a document that tells her that this is what Westcott intended people to do with his writings (and she does not quote one at any point), this is the mere imposition of an arbitrary canon of criticism. It reminds me of practically the only memorable scene in the spoof Sherlock Holmes film Without a Clue, where Holmes (in the film a bungling American actor hired by Dr. Watson as a 'front' for Watson's true detective abilities) decares that Moriarty may have hidden a clue in his name (it's about fifteen years since I saw the film, so I can't recall the exact lines). After hours of work he concludes that Moriarty's name is really Arty Morty, leaving the other characters in the room underwhelmed. Just so, Riplinger declares that Westcott has hidden clues in his writings to what he really believed. It makes as much sense to believe the Bible code nonsense that predictions of future events are hidden in the Biblical text! Or that the Bible contains a hidden prophecy naming Barak Obama as the Antichrist.

In the absence of any positive evidence that Westcott 'hid' messages in his books, I can only conclude that Westcott intended his books to be read like any other books of their type! To say "He was an occultist, occultists always hide messages in their books" is just like the "Arty Morty" illustration above. Arbitrary and ridiculous.

Footnotes Galore:
[1] Robertson and Donaldson (eds.), The Apostolic Fathers (Edinburgh, T. &. T. Clark, 1867) P. 131. I have omitted the explanatory note in the translation. While Riplinger is quoting Lightfoot’s translation, I have a copy of the T. & T. Clark edition of The Apostolic Fathers. The two translations do not differ materially.
[2] A mere surface-level, a-contextual reading of the passage could produce a momentary confusion as to the subject, so I give Riplinger the benefit of the doubt.
[3] The Gospel of St. John: The Authorised Version with Introduction and notes (London, John Murray, 1924), hereafter John
[4] Emphasis in original
[5] The Epistle to the Hebrews: The Greek Text With Notes and Essays (London, Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1920), hereafter Hebrews
[6] Life i. P. 229
[7] Religious Thought in the West Pp. 212-13

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 4

So far I have been addressing those dishonest quotations where the quotation has been ripped out of context to seem to say what it does not.

A second type of this abuse of quotations is where a quotation is given, ostensibly of Westcott, which is in fact Westcott quoting a third party.

One of these is to be found on P. 234, where we have a long series of quotations. One reads:

“Some by diligent obedience have been raised to the loftiest places in the celestial hierarchy.”

Unhelpfully, Riplinger does not give each of these quotations a footnote, but uses one to reference all of them. On checking, however, I found the quotation on P. 228 of History of Religious Thought. While Mrs. Riplinger implies that it conveys Westcott’s thought, in fact it appears in a long descriptive passage describing the philosophy of Origen! What is incumbent upon Mrs. Riplinger is what she has not done – to prove that Westcott held Origen to be correct in this matter!

Another example of this sort of quotation is on P. 520, where Riplinger says that Westcott:

“Writes that this ‘truth’ stems from Plato’s ‘… communion with a divine and super-sensuous world… [with] those beings who occupy a middle place between God and man… [A]ll fellowship which exists between heaven and earth is realised through this intermediate order… these spirits are many and manifold.”

All this would be pretty heretical if it’s true that Westcott believed this. The trouble is, he didn’t. This is a composite quotation taken from two different pages of History of Religious Thought. They are, however, both taken from the same essay, on ‘The Myths of Plato.’ The first part, “communion with a divine and super-sensuous world”, comes from P. 2, the context is:

“At the same time it will shew that they [i.e. the myths of Plato] are not, in essence, simply graceful embellishments of an argument, but venturous essays after truth, embodiments of definite instincts, sensible representations of universal human thoughts, confessions of weakness, it may be, but no less bold claims to an inherent communion with a divine and supersensuous world.”

Note that Riplinger has omitted the words “claims to” from Westcott; so that it appears he is saying that Plato really was in contact with another world, rather than simply that Plato claimed to be in contact with one. The next part of the quotation is “those beings who occupy a middle place between God and man.” The context is found on P. 7 of History of Religious Thought, where we read:

“The narrative is given by the ‘sage Diotima’ in answer to Socrates, who had spoken of Love as a glorious god. She said, - ‘He is no god, Socrates, but a spirit, a great spirit, one of those beings who occupy a middle place between gods and men; for God himself can hold no intercourse with man, and all the fellowship which exists between heaven and earth is realised through this intermediate order, which bridges over the chasm between them. These Spirits, then, are many and manifold, and Love is one of them.’”

Please note that the passages Riplinger quotes are from Westcott’s quotation of Plato. They are Plato’s words, not Westcott’s! This makes sense, as Westcott was a Christian, and believed in the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, that God Himself came into history in the Son. As will be seen as this essay unfolds, Westcott was an orthodox Trinitarian, a fact that means he certainly did not agree with Socrates! In fact the Plato quotation is part of Plato’s story of the Birth of Love, which is given as an example of an allegoric myth. Yet the whole composite quotation is given by Riplinger as Westcott’s own words, with no indication that any part of it is actually a quotation from Plato! If Westcott really believed this to be true, we are led to the inescapable conclusion that he believed the whole of the ancient Greek mythology, which we shall see is an absurd idea! The whole thing is a manufactured quotation as well, of course, Westcott never said it, he said some of the words, but not in that context! More of those to come!

She also abuses quotations about others to this end. So, on P. 448 she claims that Westcott lost his voice, citing quotations from Westcott’s Life, claiming:

“Westcott’s biographer cites that in 1858 ‘he was quite inaudible’ and by 1870 ‘his voice reached few and was understood by still fewer…’”

(In passing, I note that this is one of the points where Riplinger shows she is able to give quotes from different pages of a book separately). We are referred to P. 198 and P. 272 of the Life for these quotations. What strikes one on examination of these is first of all that both are from Westcott’s earlier life, not later, leading one to wonder if he had in fact never had the voice Riplinger suggests he had lost. However, on referring to P. 272, we find that Riplinger has omitted a most important part of the passage she is quoting. The full passage is as follows:

“His voice was not yet a force in the chapel. It reached but a few, and it was understood by still fewer.”[1]

Apart from the fact that Riplinger has altered the form of the part that she does quote, more seriously she omits the suggestive not yet. It would be more accurate to say, then, that Westcott found his voice, rather than lost it! The quotation has been trimmed to fit the purpose for which Mrs. Riplinger intends to use it.

[1] Life Pp. 272-3. Emphasis added.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 3

Having introduced the subject, it's time to get down to the serious stuff - the evidence that Gail Riplinger dishonestly uses quotations in NABV. I will present the case slowly, sorting Riplinger's quotation abuse by type.

Type 1. Where a quotation is taken out of context to make it appear that a person believes what they do not.

This is most often done by quoting either a passage where the author quoted is himself giving a quotation if it was a statement by the author himself or by quoting passages describing the views of another as if they are giving the views of the author. The most notorious of these abused out-of-context quotations is found in the very first quotation in the book, on P. 2, where she writes that B.F. Westcott “Believed he was in the ‘new age.’” This refers us to Arthur Westcott: Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott (London, Macmillan, 1903)[1] Vol. II, P. 252. There he writes:

“… [T]he Son of Man will vindicate His sovereignty by showing that He satisfies every need and every capacity which the struggles of a new age have disclosed.”

The phrase ‘new age’ has nothing to do with the occult idea of a ‘New Age’, but refers rather to an era in world history – there is simply nothing sinister about it! The next example of such a misquotation is on P. 46, where she writes:

“Both Westcott and Hort assert that the devil is not a person but a general “power of evil.”

A note refers us to the back of the book, where we are directed to Westcott’s Commentary on the Epistles of John, P. 106. There Westcott refers us to a note on 1 John 2.13, where Westcott explicitly refers to the devil as a personal being, writing that he is “a personal antagonist.”[2] While Satan is called “a power” on P. 106, there is no denial of his personality, and elsewhere there is an express avowal of the personality of the devil!

On P. 151 Riplinger, attempting to show that the new Bible versions promote worldliness, quotes from Westcott’s The Historic Faith[3] P. 11,

“There was a time when it was usual to draw a sharp line between religious and worldly things. That time has happily gone by.”

Taken as Riplinger gives it, the quotation could be read as saying that all activities are perfectly fine, and particularly that activities which were once regarded as ‘worldly’ are actually quite acceptable for Christians to participate in. But that is not what Westcott actually says in context. Riplinger has left out what follows, as a fuller quotation will demonstrate:

“There was a time when it was usual to draw a sharp line between religious and worldly things. That time has happily gone by. We all at last acknowledge more or less that all life is one. But perhaps our temptation now is to acquiesce in worldly motives for right-doing: to stop short of the clear confession both to ourselves and to others that as citizens and workers we take our share in public business, we labour to fulfil our appointed task, because the love of Christ constraineth us.”

With this context supplied, we see at once that Westcott actually refers to the pernicious habit of compartmentalising life into the sacred and the profane, religious activity and secular activity. Westcott is right to say that all life belongs to God, and that our callings in the world are vocations in which we glorify God. We could perhaps allow that Westcott does not speak the language of 20th century American fundamentalism – but then of course he does not, he is a 19th century Anglican! It is incumbent on an author to understand those she quotes, particularly if she is antagonistic to them!

On P. 167 she refers to the next page of Historic Faith, stating that “B.F. Westcott’s years of association with the esoteric world led him to call ‘faith…a power’ we can ‘use’.” What Westcott actually said was,

“Faith, I repeat, is in its essence the power by which we grasp the future, the unseen, the infinite, the eternal; and in its application it is a principle of knowledge, a principle of power, a principle of action.”

The word “use” comes from the next page, in context:

“For ourselves, then, what is faith to us, this sovereign power which can see, use, dwell in the heaven which lies about us still?”

The context instantly informs us what Westcott means by “power”, he means “power” as in the power of sight or the power of hearing, a faculty of the human person. Nor is he saying that we as men “use” faith, but that faith ‘uses’ heaven! Note well, Riplinger claims Westcott says we use faith; in fact it is faith that does the using in Westcott!

On P. 281 she gives a quotation from Historic Faith that reads “From God to God”, using this to back up the idea that Westcott believed in a cycle of ‘ages’. Sadly for those who wish to claim Mrs. Riplinger is an honest writer, the full quotation is as follows:

“Thus it is that the cycle of our creed is completed. ‘From God, unto God’ is the sum of the history which it discloses, wrought out once for all in the human life of the Son of God, and through the Spirit being still wrought out by His power in the world.”[4]

Westcott is simply saying that the Apostles’ Creed has a view of history that begins with God and ends with God. This is not heresy, it is basic Christianity!

On P. 296, attempting to show that Westcott held an unorthodox view of hell, Riplinger quotes him as saying:

“Hell is ‘not the place of punishment of the guilty’ but Hades is ‘the common abode of departed spirits.’”

This sounds pretty damning until we read Pp. 76-8 of Historic Faith, where the original Westcott quotation comes from. There is of course only one mention of ‘hell’ in the Apostles’ Creed, in the controversial article “He [Jesus Christ our Lord] descended into hell.” Westcott in context:

“He descended into Hell, that is, into Hades, into the common abode of departed spirits and not into the place of punishment of the guilty. This clause, as we know, has given occasion to much misunderstanding and superstition.”[4]

What Westcott affirms is that Jesus actually died on the cross, that His body and soul were separated. What he is denying is the idea of the ‘Harrowing of Hell’ taught by some of the ancients,

“The stirring pictures which early Christian fancy drew of Christ’s entry into the prison-house of death to proclaim His victory and lead away the ancient saints as partners in His triumph; or again to announce the Gospel to those who had not heard it, rest on too precarious a foundation to claim general acceptance.”

I would add that the same is true of the fable of some of the Word-Faith teachers that Jesus died spiritually and went to the place of punishment after death. Once again, Westcott is simply not saying what Riplinger represents him as saying here.

God willing, next time I will continue with this task. There are many more quotations to come!

[1] Hereafter Life
[2] Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (London, Macmillan, 1905) Pp. 89-90
[3] The Historic Faith: Short Lectures on the Apostles’ Creed (London, Macmillan, 1883), hereafter Historic Faith.
[4] Historic Faith P. 76.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 2

Yesterday I began a series on the use of quotations in New Age Bible Versions. That was in the way of an introduction, and this post completes the introductory section of this series.

I stated that Riplinger does not prove her thesis, she assumes it. Not only that, she assumes it and cooks the evidence in order to support a predetermined conclusion. I have a degree in Environmental Science, and this sort of trifling with pseudo-science annoys me. I have also written articles for two British Evangelical magazines in which I have dealt with liberalism and Romanism.

I said that, while Riplinger claims to show the connection between modern Bible versions and the New Age mevement, she merely shows they use some of the same words, and then assumes the modern versions are using the words in a New Age sense, something which needs to be proven - that is the question at hand, after all. It should be relatively easy to prove that some one does use certain words in the way the New Age does, and indeed Riplinger quotes liberally from various writers connected with modern Bible versions to back up her thesis. While this gives an appearance of fair and balanced scholarship, it is in fact a matter of appearance only.

It is the responsibility of any author to accurately and fairly represent the views of others, and to give quotations in a fair and unaltered form. It is acceptable to abridge quotations only if the abridgement does not materially alter the meaning of the quotation. Gail Riplinger ignores this canon of writing completely. While I suspected that she had not been completely honest in her use of the writings of others, I was not prepared for the shocking nature of her widespread and cavalier abuse of the words of others. Her use of quotations is horribly unfair. Instead of giving quotes in context, she often rips sentence fragments out of context, and strings them together to form the sentence she requires. Sometimes this is done by taking fragments from widely-separated contexts, including different books, and giving them as if they were from one context. In this series I will give representative examples of the main types of these abuses of quotations. I will first give Riplinger’s version, with some commentary, and then the actual quotation or quotations from Westcott which she has abused.

Although it is possible that Riplinger does not know how to give a quotation, the fact that she has Masters degrees and has taught at a university level makes this rather unlikely, as does the fact that elsewhere she shows an ability to give a quotation correctly. I have focused on the quotes given from B.F. Westcott. This was initially because I happened to possess several volumes of Westcott’s, his commentaries and his Essays in the History of Religious Thought in the West. As I began to examine Riplinger’s quotations, I found that her use of these volumes was more than a little questionable. This led me to obtain the Life and Letters of B.F. Westcott, and Westcott’s The Historic Faith, two further books that Riplinger quoted often. I made a full examination of Riplinger’s use of Westcott’s works, and I present the significant results here. Sometimes I have been unable to find Mrs. Riplinger’s quotation on the page given in her notes, but given that I have found more than half-a-dozen places where the page numbers given are definitely wrong, as the quotation is on another page in the book referenced (and three cases where no page number is given at all), I am prepared in all of these cases to allow that the reference given is just wrong, the result of careless editing The most obvious error was a reference to P. 948 in a book with only 250 pages! It should have been to Pp. 94-8. Owing to the widespread abuse of quotations I will document, I have been unwilling to trust those quotations that I have not been able to trace.

Next time, God willing, we shall begin to look at the actual result of my exhaustive (and exhausting) examination of Riplinger's use of Westcott.

In the meantime, play nice, and hold your horses. The real evidence begins on Monday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 1

Over the next week or so, God willing, I will be addressing some issues with Gail Riplinger's New Age Bible Versions. Yes, I’m back on the Riplinger subject. Why? Because I bought a copy of New Age Bible Versions and read it, and I’m determined to make you all suffer as I did... or something like that, anyway. Actually I put a lot of effort into examining the book, and I don't want to waste it.

Gail Riplinger first came to prominence due to her book New Age Bible Versions.[1] This book is intended to show that modern Bible versions are connected to the New Age movement, and are part of a New Age conspiracy to usher in Antichrist’s one-world religion. It does nothing of the sort, of course – it cannot, for the premise is untrue. There are bad Bible versions, and good ones, and of course there are people involved in the translation of the Bible whose theology is unorthodox. But Gail Riplinger goes far beyond this, into fully-fledged conspiracy theories. Most of the tables supposed to prove her claims are nothing more than examples of the genetic fallacy, making men offenders for a word – literally. Thus the fact that modern versions use the word ‘One’ to speak of God is alleged to prove their connection to the New Age movement. This is of course nonsense. For one thing, the King James Bible uses the phrase ‘The Holy One’ to speak of God more than a dozen times! Having examined the passages she quotes in support of this, I find that most of the time the use of the word ‘one’ is merely dictated by the conventions of modern English grammar – so that underlying her comment is the real complaint, that the modern Bibles are written in modern English! On P. 77 she tells us that there is no Greek or Hebrew word for ‘one’ in many of these passages – there is not, but this is because it is quite correct in Greek and Hebrew to simply use the noun ‘the good’ or ‘the holy’ to describe God. This is, however, bad English; thus, to make it good English, the translators added the word ‘one’. It should be added that the NIV, the NASB and the New King James Bibles never use ‘The One’ alone as a title for God.

So why do the modern versions seem in places to sound similar to some New Age writers? The true explanation is simply that New Age authors are writing in English about religion, and thus they will use a great deal of the same vocabulary as modern Bible translators, just as they also use a great deal of the same vocabulary as the King James Bible! Although Mrs. Riplinger twits modern versions for using the word ‘teaching’ where the AV reads ‘Doctrine’, it is notorious that Madame Blavatsky’s multi-volume work of occult teaching is called The Secret Doctrine. Satan can use Christian vocabulary as easily as he can invent new terms. The New Age movement has developed its own jargon, of course, but like most false religious movements in the West, it has also appropriated wholesale the vocabulary of Christianity, filling that vocabulary with its own meanings. So once again, it is not the title ‘The Christ’ that is evil (contra Riplinger on Pp.318-321 and in many other places), but the meaning that the New Age movement has filled the title with. For this reason it is not enough to prove that a writer uses a specific term that the New Age uses, it must also be proven that the writer uses it in the same way as the New Age movement’s writers.
God willing, next time I shall begin to show that Riplinger has not done that, she has merely assumed it, the logical fallacy of begging the question. Where she has attempted to do so in the case of Brooke Foss Westcott, she has only demonstrated a remarkable level of dishonesty. I know, I said 'dishnoesty'. Hold your fire, there's eighteen pages of this in Word, and that was just page one!
Some ground rules: Don't expect me to do all the work. Wait, this is the introduction. Don't expect me to run around after commenters, I'm a busy man. As in full-time Gospel ministry busy. I now have to finish off preparing for a Young People's talk that was sprung on me last night.

[1] G.A. Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions (Ararat, VA, AV Publications, 1993), hereafter NABV

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Many Bookshops with Mr. Charmley: The Bible Bookshop, Hanley

The Bible Bookshop is located in the centre of Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, in Huntback street, not too far from our centrally located chapel in New Hall Street. This is a general Christian bookshop, and of course these days that means not just books, but junk as well. Thankfully not too much junk, but you can still find The Shack here, and an awful lot of Christian fiction besides. While the shop has a good ordering service, they do not have a large stock of Reformed books, so it would be advisable to check in advance if one went looking for a particular book. The staff, however, are helpful and friendly, and the shop is considerably better than some Christian bookshops around in the UK. I don't award points, but I'll just say this is an ordinary Christian bookshop. I got the first volume of Keddie's commentary on John's Gospel here.

Next: The Methodist Book Centre.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In Many Bookshops with Mr. Charmley: The CTS bookshop,

The occasional series In Many Bookshops with Mr Charmley continues with the Catholic Truth Society Bookshop at Westminster Cathedral. I know what you're thinking: Have I gone over to Rome? No, I haven't, but somethimes the best way to find out what Rome teaches is to read Rome's books. And this is one of the best places in Britain to get them. What I really appreciated about this shop is that it is a bookshop. Not a shop for nick-nacks and ornaments, a bookshop, for books. Look at that picture. It's full of books. Not the latest paperbacks either, but serious books. There's shelves and shelves of the Church Fathers in the back for those interested in Patristic studies, loads of books by past Roman catholic writers, including Chesterton and Newman. Books of lasting value.
I am not a Roman Catholic, I probably disagree with most of the books sold here. But I agree with the philosophy that seems to guide this place - sell good books of lasting value. I would recommend this shop to anyone trying to get hold of Catholic and Patristic material - though be aware that a lot of the material is a bit pricey! I have never seen so many books by the Church Fathers in one bookshop before, and the effect is quite stunning. Of course, the Fathers were not modern-Day Roman Catholics, and we can learn a lot from them as Protestants. It's just you sometimes have to go into the CTS to get the books!
The CTS support the campaign to make John Henry Newman a Saint, something I quite understand English Catholics wanting. He was probably the best English Catholic writer of the last century and a half! He's certainly the most influential 19th century English Roman Catholic theologian. He was also a master of the English language. If I live that long, I expect to see St. John Henry Newman on the official list of Roman Catholic Saints within the next five years.
When I was there the shop was quite quiet. I like that, of course. It adds to the feel of a serious bookshop - which is what this is. The Cardiff CTS shop is another matter, but there you go, that's for another time! My final verdict on the London CTS bookshop is this: a serious Roman Catholic bookshop where you can be fairly sure to find what you want as long as it's either Roman Catholic or Patristic. For what it is, it's very good.
Coming up, God willing: The Methodist Book Centre and the Bible Bookshop, Stoke-on-Trent. Or: I go to meet the neighbours.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to tell if a book is worth reading

The wisest of kings once said, "Of the making of many books there is no end," and no age has been so filled with books as ours. The presses are cranking them out far faster than anyone can read them all, and faster than any one man could read the product of one of the presses! Christian bookshops are so often today turned into mere junk shops, places where one can buy all sorts of trinkets, but where scant space is left for books that will actually aid the disciple in his walk. Study Bibles abound, filled with fatuous notes that tell us more about the writer than the Bible, and so-called 'lifestyle' books that contain little Bible and no gospel. How, then, are we to make the judgement as to what is worth reading?

There are a few principles. First of all, some publishers are more trustworthy than others. A book from Christian Focus, Evangelical Press or Banner of Truth in the UK and Presbyterian and Reformed in the US is usually going to be at least a decent book. A book from Thomas Nelson could be anything. If the publisher isn't one you can more or less trust implicitly, then go on to the other principles.

2. Author: Who wrote it? You can tell a lot about a book from its author. First of all, if it's by an author whose work you know, you can usually judge fairly well whether or not it's worth reading. If not, then who is the author? Where are they coming from? That usually gives some help.

3. Title. A title is meant to convey something about the book. Hopefully it does.

4. Cover. That's meant to say something about the book too. All too often they don't.

5. Reviews! Us reviewers get sent books by our editors, and all we get in return is the book. Great if it's a good book, and if not, well, I'm sure I'll need to prop something up with it. Of course you need to trust the publication you see the review in. Peace and Truth, a small Reformed publication in the UK is a very trustworthy source of reviews. I know because I write some of them. A good review tells you about the book, so you can tell if you're interested in it, and if it's any good.

6. Use common sense. I assume most readers of this blog possess that.

And finally, one can never have too many good books.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On History

Christianity is an historical religion. It is based on historical facts and historical events. Our whole salvation is dependent upon an event that happened, not in the realm of myth, or in Kant's Noumenal realm, or Plato's realm of Ideals, but in this real world, in real history. The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are events that took place in history, just like the assassination of Julius Caesar and the Second World War. If they are not, then Christianity is a meaningless fable - but of course they are historical events.

Thus, as Christians, it is incumbent upon us to know history. Not only that, but to know it as history. What do I mean? I mean that we must recognise that historical events take place within a matrix of history. We have probably all seen those Medieval images of events in the Bible in which the figures are dressed in Medieval clothing - the guards at the tomb of Christ in Medieval armour, and the tomb as a Medieval tomb, not a rock-cut tomb. This is anachronism, treating the past as if it were the present. While few of us today, at least in Protestant circles, would be guilty of such gross anachronism as to imagine the people of the Bible as wearing modern clothing, we all too often fall into the trap of reading non-Biblical writers of the past as if they lived today. An egregious example of this would be the Fundamentalist [see Extended Note for American Readers] who read Martin Luther and condemned him as not really converted because he retained so much of Rome. What the man had forgotten was Luther's sitz im laben, his situation in life, in Europe coming out of centuries of domination by the Roman Church. The question to ask was not so much how far Luther was from me, but how far he was from Rome! To give another example, John Calvin supported the punishment of heresy by the state. To modern ears that sounds terrible, and indeed if any modern Christian leader were to promote that (without first cloaking it in plausible-sounding language, of course), we would be rightly horrified. But we must put Calvin in his historical context, where just about everybody believed that heresy was a crime that threatened the nation as well as the Church. And so I might go on, pleading that we understand people in history.

Christians also ought to know the history of the period between the end of the Book of Acts and the present day, including the period from AD 100 to the 16th century. And for this period we ought not to rely on works written more than a century ago. I have nothing against Mosheim (I have a copy), but a great deal against the 'trail of blood' hypothesis, which is in fact nothing more than a bad Baptist copy of the theory of Apostolic Succession, of which Wesley said so truly that it was a fable no man can prove. Historical books must not be written in order to conform to a theory, but to conform to the realities of history. I do not care what the theory is, if it is false to the facts of history, it must be discarded.

Nor can we unchurch everyone who disagrees with us, tempting though it may be. The Church Fathers are odd. Some of them, like Origen, are really odd (and yes, that is the verdict of history on Origen). But to say "Church Fathers! Catholics! Evil!" and write them all off is just overly simplistic. It is a dream that there was a 'golden age' in the early Church, say the first two centuries, in which everyone understood the Bible perfectly, and then the whole period since was a period of decline. Anyone who thinks this needs to read the Epistles, and not just as a set of inspirational sayings. Read about the Church in Corinth, what they were doing. Then ask yourself this: If a man really understands Christianity, would he be doing that with his stepmother? And if a Church was really in the golden age, would they all be congratulating him on it?

No, the whole history of the Church has been, in general, one of growing into the Bible. Only a fool would think that there have not been periods of decline, periods in which true religion has been hard to find, but the Church as it is today is far more impressive than the Church of the second century. Of course, in each period of the Church's history there are aberrations, false teachings that depart from the Bible, such as Gnosticism, which detatches Christianity from history, or liberalism, which denies huge chunks of the Bible to be true. Thus the Bible itself acts as a control. Jesus said "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It's seemed a close-run thing at times, and it seems so right now in places, but we have to remember that Our Lord knows what He is doing.

In biography it is usually important to read books that do not just praise the subject, but mention the fact he was a sinner. Because he was, take it from me. It does no good to present Christian heroes as well-nigh perfect, editing out C.I. Scofield's neglect of his children from his first marriage, Billy Sunday's financial issues, and A.W. Tozer's relative neglect of his family. To do so makes them into Protestant versions of Roman Catholic saints, something no true Protestant should welcome! Biographies are the life story of an individual, and readers ought to be aware that the biographer may not have researched the lives of other individuals whose lives intersect with those of their subject as well, and so incidental references to persons may not be completely accurate.

Finally, we have nothing to fear from historical research, it's the abuse of that research that causes problems! Do not assume that just because you read something in a book it must be true. The claims Dan Brown retails in The Da Vinci Code are found in books. But this goes for claims that make you feel good as well! As I said, especially if the book in more than a century old, or is written using secondary sources over a century old. As a rule, if a book relies entirely on secondary sources, and those are century- old sources, then it's probably not worth reading. Academic historians are not all evil proponents of unbelief (my Father's one. An academic historian, I mean). Wylie may be fine for the outlines of history, but we have discovered more evidence since he passed away.

[Extended Note: I am an Englishman, and the word 'fundamentalist' in England does not carry a generally positive meaning. It has never really caught on as a self-designation for English Christians, and is usually used in a negative way. I use the word negatively myself to refer to an unreflective form of religion that is historically ignorant and culturally naive. The fundamentalist is typically sectarian in his view of history, treating his sect as the true Church, and anachronistic, applying the tenets and requirements of his sect to all he comes into contact with. He makes the tenets of his sect, not the historic faith, the test of all, even (indeed, especially) if the sect is of extremely recent birth]
Picture: T.M. Lindsay, a good Church historian