Thursday, October 18, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXIII.

Benjamin B. Warfield was without a doubt one of the greatest theologians of his day. His defence of the inerrancy of Scripture alone is a masterful work that has never been answered. Instead it has been ignored, caricatured and abused. None of these methods are recommended at all. So it is no surprise that such a great American Presbyterian defender of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints should have come into some contact with David Brown. Yet it was not to be expected that the two men would agree on everything, in agreement though they were on most matters. In particular they disagreed on the subject of Biblical Criticism. We refer not to the fanciful speculations of the so-called higher critics, which we have savaged a dozen times already in this series, but to the altogether saner science of textual criticism. While the 'higher critics' worked without any material to back up their ungodly dreams, Textual critics work with real manuscripts, Papyrus fragments, great codices, and so on. While Warfield was an admirer and follower of Westcott and Hort, David Brown disagreed rather violently with those men, as we have seen in the post in this series on the subject of the Revised Version of the English Bible. Warfield used Hort's Greek text and textual critical methods. David Brown thought Hort basicacally over-simplistic and muddled, based on a very few very old texts to the extent of claiming some obvious scribal errors were original readings! Warfield though Brown's method of criticism "to result in dominating external evidence without internal evidence." This was not true, and the two men continued friends. Thankfully today Westcott and Hort's simplistic methods have been significantly refined, and no longer do we find 'lithon' for 'linon' in Revelation 15.6! All manuscripts (it is the very nature of manuscripts!) contain scribal errors, even the best, and all rules have exceptions!
Warfield was an enthusiastic supporter of Brown's book on the Second Coming of Christ. "The Pre-millenarian serpent was scotched, not killed by your book many years ago," he wrote to Brown in 1887. "Leaving the Apocalypse (Revelation) to one side for the moment, I cannot help seeing that the more didactic portions of the New Testament set the matter beyond all appeal, at least as far as this, namely, that Christ's Advent introduces the END of the world, and the FINAL consummation and LAST Judgement, and not another worldly dispensation of any kind." And so say all of us at Free St. George's, Dr. Warfield! David Brown's book on the Second Coming of Christ did for us what it did for B. B. Warfield - convinced us that no self-respecting Calvinist ought to be a premillenialist!!!
We reiterate that the eschatological controversy, unlike that with Rome and the Unitarians, is a debate, for the most part (we are thinking here of those cults like the Watchtower Society and Harold Camping that major on end-times speculation), an in-house debate between Christians. The central doctrine of Christianity to Warfield and to Brown was the atonement, the incarnate Son of God dying for sinners. It was from THAT place that they would not move. 'We preach Christ Sruciefied' is the motto of the Church of God in all ages, and it was Brown's. Her urged it on his students. They were to preach Christ as the PROPITIATION for our sins. That was Brown's place. As the hymn-writer put it. so Brown would have consented:
Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul's anchor may remain;
The blood of Jesus, for my sin,
Before the world's foundation slain.

God willing, next time we shall consider a few more of Brown's correspondents.



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