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

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