I’ll preface this by saying that I’m thankful for the ministry that it sounds like Pooyan Mehrshahi is doing in the Lord’s work.
But I’m afraid he’s hurting his ministry by trying to sell the Muslim peoples a narrative about the Bible that doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of facts.
Michael Behe’s Darwin Devolves serves as a reminder that Charles Darwin’s main reason for rejecting intelligent design was that he had preconceived notions of how God would and wouldn’t design organisms, and as he discovered certain things that failed to be in line with his preconceived notions, he reckoned that as proof that God didn’t make them. This was what enabled him to reject what even he would have to admit as clear signs of intelligent design elsewhere in his investigations. It all rose and fell on this presupposition. In other words, Darwin’s theology of God — a theology that he’d derived on his own whim — dictated his beliefs and his approach to science. It was his core underpinning.
Textus Receptus advocates need to be beware of an alarmingly similar preconceived and anthropocentric belief that states that there’s no way that God would’ve preserved his word in a particular fashion. I’m hearing that line of reasoning come out of these men in this interview. It’s not an argument based on facts and reason. It’s an argument based on theology; a theology that cannot be derived from scripture despite efforts to misappropriate versus in a circular fashion. Rather, it’s derived outside of scripture. This very same anthropocentric argument caused Charles Darwin and more recently Bart Ehrman to abandon their belief in even the possibility of a God who reveals himself in words. This line of thinking does not have the mind of Christ. It’s destructive.
In one sense, the debate here is a small one. No major doctrine is at stake. Mostly just minor reading differences here and there, and quibbles about whether some sections should have some unobtrusive brackets around them or not. But in another sense, big things are at stake here. If, like Charles Darwin, you refuse to believe in a God would who preserve his Word in a certain way, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous position. If you start studying and discover the truth — the naked, undeniable, scary facts about the messiness of the New Testament witness throughout history — your world is going to turn upside down. Like the poor young Christians that Pooyan Mehrshahi is trying to witness to, your faith is going to be badly shaken. And well it should! Like Charles Darwin, you’ve found an undeniable historic fact that is incompatible with your made-up definition of God. What are you going to do? Should you abandon your faith? Much is at stake.
So in one sense, it’s not a big deal. In other sense, it’s a very big deal.
Meanwhile, the Internet is changing things. It’s causing Mormons, Muslims, and Jehovah Witnesses to leave their faith in droves, as they realize that the bag of goods they were sold, the truth claims about their canonical texts and their spiritual forefathers, were not everything they were cracked up to be by their local teachers, priests, bishops, and imams.
If you decide to remain in one of those religions, there are often facts about your religion’s past that you must either deliberately try to mischaracterize or ignore altogether. The problem is that this used to work but it no longer does. The Internet happened. If you hold to a view that is bothered by an honest and candid conversation about history, that’s a bad warning sign. That’s a sign that you’re hoping that the person you’re trying to evangelize is just a regular “person on the street” who isn’t going to question you or look up whether what you’re saying jives with what really happened. If you want to get a first-hand grasp of how the Internet has completely changed the information flow in regards to personal faith, I highly recommend Understanding Jihad by Nabell Qureshi.
When your position results in you being uncomfortable sharing or discussing historic realities, you know you have a fault somewhere in your position. The true position is not afraid to face the facts. If your view of something is shaken by studying facts, and causes you to wish others likewise remained ignorant or silent about the matter, you have a faulty view, and you’re stuck in a man-made tradition that’s not rooted in reality and doesn’t have the currency of facts on its side.
When it comes to the Textus Receptus, this is why Beyond What is Written by Jan Krans is a one-volume destruction.1 It demonstrates how the truth claims that Truelove and Mehrshahi seek to make about the TR are untenable. To believe in the infallibility of every textual variation adhered to in the TR requires the same kind of blind against-all-odds belief as is required to believe in the sacred texts of Mormonism and Islam. This mentality exchanges truth for certainty. It requires a blind belief that is not becoming of Christians, one that is not based on God’s word, but rather upon the vain imaginations of fallible men. It’s demonstrably disprovable by any careful study of the facts.
God created the human mind. He does not expect or require that his followers ditch their reason or intellect in order to believe. God is rational and logical and truthful. And to deny the corruption of the TR requires a suspension of truth. You either hold that the TR does indeed have errors in it, or you hold that God re-inspired the TR in the 16th century. There is no middle ground without blatantly denying historic facts and truth.
This is precisely why the Muslims that Pooyan Mehrshahi is trying to minister to stumble when they hear the facts about the messiness of the Greek New Testament: they’ve been told that the TR is the infallible word of God, that there is no variation, and then they discover it’s much more complicated and nuanced than that. It is messy, it always has been, no time more than at the Reformation, and anyone who tries to say otherwise is either lying, deceived, or simply ignorant.
It’s understandable that Pooyan Mehrshahi would find an appeal in using the TR and its translations. The peoples he’s reaching are used to the Quran, which has no textual variant whatsoever, at least they think. The TR is more in thinking with the faulty Muslim concept of preservation that mocks the messiness. But both texts don’t stand the scrutiny of examination. The problem here is this: if you’re able to create doubt in their minds about the Quran, then someone else will find a way to create doubt in their mind about portions of the TR; and both sources of doubt will be founded upon good grounds. Long-term, you’re hurting your ministry if you try to witness to Muslims with the truth claims of TR-onlyism.
I’ll close with a few final thoughts.
James White never said that you can’t witness to a Muslim if you hold to the TR. Of course God can use such persons. What he said was that a debate between an able Muslim scholar and a TR-only advocate would not end well. That’s different altogether. We still haven’t seen that.
It’s strange discussing 1 Timothy 3:16 without discussing passages where the TR fails to assert the deity of Christ in places that the Critical Text does assert it (e.g. John 1:18). This partisan cherry-picking is unhelpful to the discussion.
It’s also disappointing to see Truelove continue to fail to make basic category distinctions about the difference between cannonics and textual criticism. These are not the same thing.
Lastly, I sense that a lot of TR-only advocates feel like the sole alternative to their viewpoint is the Critical Text. That’s wrong. If you prefer the Byzantine text type and, having studied the issues, are compelled to believe that there are good reasons that it should have priority over the Alexandrian text type, Maurice A. Robinson has the New Testament you need.
- I haven’t personally read all the book, but I’ve seen enough from a physical copy to realize how destructive it is to the TR-only position. It deals in the hard and cold currency of facts, shows the errors that the compilers of the TR made, and completely violates the false narrative of a so-called “confessional” text that was undisputed by the Reformers. ↩︎