Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Bible Version Debate

The quickest way to get a heated argument going in a fundamental Bible-believing church today is to bring up the subject of which Bible version is the best and most accurate. Everyone has his favorite version, and usually knows why it is the right one to use.

Sometimes you will get more than simple advice. Some people will tell you in the strongest terms which Bible you should use. More often than not, these people will be advocating the Authorized or King James Version (KJV).

I'm not talking about...

Many people have come to love the KJV because of the long familiarity of reading it in their daily devotions and hearing it in sermons. The specific wording of familiar promises is marked in their memory, along with the time in their life when God fulfilled those promises. They were reading the KJV when the Holy Spirit brought light to their soul, peace to their mind, and comfort to their heart. They love the KJV and recommend it to others. They are not about to change to another translation, and they should not. They should stick with what works for them.

I am also not talking about those who think the KJV is superior to any other available English translation because of the Greek texts on which it is based. Some people believe that the Greek texts that underlie the KJV are superior to those used by other translations. Discussions about which Greek texts are more reliable are legitimate, and reasonable Christians can disagree on these points.

I am talking about...

The people I am talking about are those who use all the arguments above and then go far beyond. They contend that the KJV is perfect, that it supersedes the original texts, and that it is inspired by God in every word (one person said, "every syllable"). They believe that it is "God's preserved Word in the English language", and any translation that reads differently is a corruption. They go to great lengths to explain away simple and obvious translation mistakes.

People who hold this position become agitated, even angry, if you dare to suggest that the KJV just might not have been God-breathed. They accuse anyone who doesn't see things their way of being a "Bible hater", an ally of Satan, and of denying the inspiration and preservation of Scripture. For purposes of brevity, I am going to call this position Radical King James Onlyism, or RKJO.

If this isn't you, then relax. I'm talking about a very different, very radical, and often hateful group of people who seek to divide the body of Christ over this arguable matter. Not content with using the KJV themselves, they won't rest until they have imposed their views on everyone they know. They condemn anyone who doesn't agree with them -- often with harsh words and pronouncements of judgment.

A little history

The RKJO movement has its roots in the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) cult. Nearly all of the proofs and argumentative approaches used by RKJO adherents come from the book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated by Benjamin Wilkinson, a Seventh Day Adventist. The SDAs use certain specific wording in the KJV to support their contention for "soul sleep" and other heresies. Wilkinson was concerned that support for his doctrines would go away if people started using other versions. He wrote his book to prop up the KJV because of the way he uses the KJV to prop up his heresies. Since then, the SDAs have come up with their own translation, so they are not so interested in the KJV any more. Sadly, the RKJO position persists.

Today, the largest organized church that holds the King James to be an inspired translation is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. Mormons are forced to take a radical position on the inspiration of the KJV because it is quoted by the Book of Mormon -- a book they claim is a word-for-word dictation from God. Mind you, I am not suggesting guilt by association when I mention the Mormons and SDAs. I'm just providing some context for the discussion.

In the last few decades, the RKJO position has been filtering into fundamentalist Protestant churches. A few small radical Pentecostal denominations have picked it up, but it is mostly found in independent Baptist churches, or with a few individuals scattered throughout otherwise doctrinally sound groups. It hit its peek in the early to mid '90s with the publication of New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger. After Riplinger was refuted, it subsided, but now it has begun to revive again, especially in conservative Holiness churches.

A new series

It would be a mistake to believe that the RKJO position is harmless. Error is never harmless, especially when it involves how God's Word came to us. Believing that the KJV is inspired in every word strikes directly to the heart of the Christian doctrine on inspiration and preservation of Scripture. It cannot be allowed to stand un-refuted. Also, RKJO adherents tend to be very divisive. Their track record shows that if they are not challenged, they often become more strident and will eventually split a congregation of believers.

Over the next few months, I intend to start a series examining some of the positions of Radical King James Onlyism. I will be showing where they have gone off the rails, and how they can be refuted. There are some excellent rebuttals of the RKJO position already in print and available online, so I will be referring to them from time to time. However, I think there is a need for a refutation of the RKJO position from a doctrinally sound, conservative Holiness position. That is what I intend to provide.

I welcome your comments, especially if you are currently in conversation with a radical KJO.

If you are a radical KJO and you want to condemn me or start and argument, just understand that I have already been slandered, called a follower of Satan, condemned as a Bible hater, and a bunch of other stuff, so my skin is really thick. I am not intimidated by bullying. Your comments are welcome, but you won't change my mind.

Stay tuned!

No comments: