Tuesday, May 26, 2009

So, why are they REALLY leaving Fundamentalism?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a question running through my mind…why are the young guys really leaving Fundamentalism. Most of us know about the hullabaloo caused by the reasons offered up to this question by a keynote speaker at a recent FBFI regional meeting back east. His contention is that Calvinism, coupled with young men becoming enamored with some of the popular leaders in Conservative Evangelicalism, serves as the main catalyst. I think he’s way off the mark. But rather than just claiming that and ending it all there, I’d like to offer up my thoughts on why the young guys are leaving.

I’m still one of the “young guys” in Fundamentalism although, at the age of 36, I’m on the verge of no longer fitting the original definition of “Young Fundamentalist”. Not only am I one of the young guys, but I’m one of the young guys who is going to leave the movement. I’ve stated before that the church I’m in now is likely the last IFB church I’ll ever attend. Now for me there have been several key factors contributing to my desire to leave the movement. I’ll mention those and then move on to some other factors that I think may be contributing to the current trend of bashing and/or leaving Fundamentalism. To be clear here, by “leaving Fundamentalism” we are discussing the movement – not the principals. I am and will continue to be a Fundamentalist in the historic sense of the word; however, I – like so many others – have grown increasingly frustrated with what fundamentalism the movement has become.

By the way, for the purpose of this blog entry I’m differentiating between young fundamentalists and young fundamentalist preachers. While many from both groups might be leaving for some of the same reasons, I believe that what might cause a young pastor to leave is ofttimes something that might not cause a typical parishioner to leave and vice-versa. Now, my reasons first:

The KJV issue. This has been a burr under my saddle since I was 15 years old (with a brief exception in my early adult years when I joined up with the KJVO crowd). The KJVO movement has, in my opinion, caused more harm and disharmony in the church in general, and Fundamentalism in particular, than any other singular issue. This crowd has hurled some wicked insults at other reliable (sometimes more reliable) translations of God’s Word – calling them translations from the pits of hell and the like. Their vitriol notwithstanding, the radical side of the KJVO movement has so permeated Fundamentalism that any church that uses any other translation – regardless of what it is – is generally deemed “liberal” by Fundamentalism Proper. Even our institutions of higher learning are forced to pander to the rabid KJVO crowd. While only a few will go so far as to claim that the KJV is anything more than what is – a fairly reliable TRANSLATION – nearly all of them state that it is to be the only Bible used from the pulpit and in the classroom. The KJV issue is truly indicative of a larger issue in the realm of scholarship, but perhaps that’s another topic altogether. While I certainly respect those folks, both inside and outside Fundamentalism, who hold to the KJV as their Bible of choice, the KJVO movement has been a horrible blight on Fundamentalism. Another unfortunate result of this movement is that, too often, folks who use only the KJV but do not view it as something other than what it is are unwittingly shackled to maniacs like Riplinger and Ruckman.

The standards issue. Whether you refer to it as personal holiness or sanctification, the results are the same. Too often, Fundamentalism focuses purely on an outward adherence to certain “standards” and ignore the need to actually develop an intimate and personal relationship with a living and holy God. Even the more progressive portions of IFB-dom struggle with things such as whether or not a woman should wear pants and whether or not boys can wear shorts for sporting activities. In many IFB summer camps you will see girls wearing long skirts and boys wearing blue jeans for outdoor sports activities even in temperatures greater than 100 degrees. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard pastors tear the crap out of a text in order to defend their ridiculous notion that a woman wearing pants is immoral. But it’s not just that. Whether we want to talk about dress, hair length and style, jewelry, facial hair, church dress, music, alcohol, or any number of other things the story is the same: Fundamentalism tends to have hard and fast rules based loosely on biblical principals and proof texting but with little hardcore support for their position. The result is that people who look right are too often deemed righteous regardless of whether or not they are bearing any fruit. By the way, another aspect of this is that, all too often, people who don’t already look the part are shunned. This is why there are more IFB churches shrinking than there are growing. I believe that this key issue is at the core of the lack of involvement of the typical IFB church in the community. Where the Evangelicals are very active in reaching out to the community and reaching them where they are, the Fundamentalists have a desire to make people become like them. Now I’ll be the first to admit that there needs to be balance here. Ofttimes, just like the Fundamentalists go too far one direction, the Evangelicals will fall of the other extreme.

The preaching issue. My experience is Fundamentalism has been that there is precious little exposition coming from the pulpit. I attended a Fundamentalist college and spent three years working at two of the premier Fundamentalist camps in the country and I just didn’t see much exposition from any of the IFB “celebrities”. Most generally when the regular speakers on my college campus (faculty members) spoke, it was expositional in nature, but the guests were most generally topical guys. My experience in IFB churches since those days has been the same - 90% or more topical versus exposition. I’m one of those guys who has, not just a strong feeling, but a strong conviction on this subject. Rightly dividing the word of truth demands a faithful exposition of the text.

The worship issue. While worship can certainly be “overdone” and focused purely on emotions in more contemporary services, Fundamentalism goes to the other extreme. There needs to be balance here and, unfortunately, I’ve attended exactly 2 services in any Fundamentalist church that managed to strike this balance. One was a very conservative church with a worship leader (now a pastor of another church) who carefully and reverently led the congregation in worship. The other instance was on an occasion where there was a guest musician in for a church service I was attending. He led the congregation in true worship. These are clear exceptions to the Fundamentalism I’ve always known. We don’t worship. We sing, listen to announcements, take up an offering, listen to the choir, sing some more, listen to the special, listen to some topical preaching, and have an invitation. This may sound like I’m describing a service at a specific church, but in reality this is the model for every single IFB church (with one exception) that I’ve ever attended. I don’t know how many churches that is, but I would estimate that number to be somewhere over 100 during the course of my life. 100 different churches, 100 different pastors, 100 different song leaders, yet the same service. We are careful to ensure that the emotions are not engaged during the song service because we believe emotional engagement is wrong….unless of course it’s time for the invitation. The command to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (these address the will, emotion, and intellect) doesn’t seem to apply in the church service. We want to engage the will and intellect, but the emotions need to be put down. You will never see hands raised in worship in an IFB church (unless there is an "outsider" visiting), nor will you see anything other than dry eyes at any point during the “worship” service. The church service tends to be a very regimented, dry, rote, obligatory occasion.

I would say that these, although not representative of all my thoughts over the last 6 or 7 years of looking at things, are the main four items for me. Quickly I want to examine some other possibilities for why young guys are leaving – some good and some…not so good.
The “grass is greener” syndrome. Some guys leave just because it’s different. I believe that this reason represents a very small (nearly nonexistent) minority of the young preachers who are leaving, but a larger percentage of the young, non-pastors who are leaving. Now there are several issues that contribute to this, but I think the main one is that, from the outside, Christianity can appear to be much “easier” in Evangelicalism. What people realize eventually however, is that, regardless of the type of church you are in, you are still a wicked sinner trying desperately – and failing miserably – when it comes to pleasing a holy God.

The Calvinism issue. I said in my opening statements that I think it is a misplaced logic that leads one to this conclusion. However, when it comes to the young non-pastor types who flee Fundamentalism, this can certainly be a contributing factor. There is little doubt that Evangelicalism is a much more “Calvinist-friendly” entity than is Fundamentalism. All that being said, I’ve been very Calvinistic for nearly 20 years and a 5-pointer for nearly 10 and I’ve managed to live peaceably within Fundamentalism that entire time. This, in my opinion, would be a lousy reason to abandon Fundamentalism and it is certainly not a stand alone reason. It might be a good reason to leave a particular Fundamentalist church, but not a good reason to leave Fundamentalism itself.

The Jack Hyles/Bob Gray/Bob Jones, Jr./John R. Rice, etc. issue. I think some guys leave just because, in certain parts of the country, you say the word Fundamentalist and one of these guys pops into your head. While there is quite a bit of good that came out of each of these guys ministries, they were and – even though most of them are now dead – continue to be extremely polarizing figures. To many, these guys represent all that was and is wrong with Fundamentalism. If I was in a place where Fundamentalism equals Jack Hyles, I would never use that term nor would I attend a church that advertised itself as a Fundamentalist church. Now the only problem with leaving for this issue is that, in most of the country, the term "Evangelical" brings names like Osteen, Hybels, and Warren immediately to mind. So which is the greater evil? I think I’d prefer being associated with Hyles over Osteen any day of the week. One presented the Gospel boldly every time he had an opportunity to do so; the other has repeatedly balked even when given national television audiences. In my opinion, leaving (or embracing) any movement simply because of whom you will or will not be identified with is not a good primary reason for a move one way or the other. While I would more readily wish to be identified with the Masters crowd than with the Bob Jones University crowd, this should not be a major consideration for where I land (unless the crowd I’m leaving has slid into major doctrinal error or apostasy).

Now there are certainly other reasons that could be examined – some good and some bad – so I acknowledge that this list isn’t complete, nor is it “scientific” in any way. This is just one bloggers opinion of a major issue. I think that young men leaving Fundamentalism will, in the end, be good for the movement. This forces the movement into some critical self-examination. In the end, Fundamentalism will make some changes or it will continue to slowly bleed out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fundamentalism versus Conservative Evangelicalism

As much as I dislike stereotypes, I'm going to engage in stereotypes for the purpose of this post. I've been reading quite a bit lately about Conservative Evangelicalism as compared to Fundamentalism. Much of the debate in the Fundamentalist blogosphere these days has, at its root, a frustration regarding the exodus of many "Young Fundamentalists" from the movement to Conservative Evangelicalism. For "fun" I decided to create this chart that highlights some of the major stances of both these groups. There are several things that aren't on here. For instance, Fundamentalists are generally hard-core Dispensationalists, whereas Conservative Evangelicals will have "soft" dispy's and some Covenant guys. But even with some of these things lacking, I think you'll find a number of key things addressed in this chart of 26 items.

Enjoy and please comment on any mistakes or mischaracterizations I may have made. By the way, I had a difficult time with the code to get this up here in chart form. Any of you computer wizards out there that can help me out, just email me at eli51773(at)hotmail.com.

1Specific BeliefFundamentalismConservative Evangelicalism
in Inerrancy of Scripture
in Divinity of Christ
in Virgin Birth
in the Substitutionary Blood Atonement
in the Bodily Resurrection of Christ
in the Imminent Return of Christ
in a Triune God
rule and Pastor rule. There are generally deacons that work closely
with the pastor
Most generally
practice elder rule
hold to Immersion only, though some other forms might be acceptable
in some quarters
- only members of the local church, or "Close" - "likeminded"
members of other local churches can join
to all believers
Taught but
not practiced
Music "prepares
the heart for worship. Generally there will be corporate singing without
commentary, an offering, a choral number, a "special", and
then the preaching. Congregation not really lead in worship.
Heavy focus
on corporate worship. Variety of musical styles and other medium to
completely engage the congregation in group worship. Heavy focus on
worship before, during, and after the preaching.
primarily of church members being encouraged to and engaged in inviting
others to church.
Church as
a whole tends to be heavily involved in community. Not uncommon to see
addictions recovery ministries, troubled teens ministries, various counseling
ministries and the like. Focus on "meeting people where they are".
from Apostasy
only with "likeminded" believers, i.e., churches that are
more or less "carbon copies".
and desire to fellowship with all believers.
versus Arminianism
Mostly 4
point Arminian
Mostly 4
- 5 point Calvinist
will have a radical adherence to the KJV. Some have transitioned to
the NKJV.
versions used.
encouraged - primary place for fellowship with other members.
High standards
in the Church and encouraged outside the church service as well. The
"pants on women" debate is still underway.
Focus on
modesty and appropriateness.
consumption is a sin.
is a sin. Alcohol consumptions is OK.
focus on outward conformity to certain "standards of conduct"
(i.e., no drinking, smoking, listening to rock music, dancing, etc)
focus on a personal relationship with a Holy God.
Lots of
them. Local church tends to be very tight knit as a result.
Not many
for just the church. Most activities are geared towards community outreach.
Small groups serve as the primary socialization arm for members.
to none.
involved in community.
Strict cessationistsNot dogmatic
on cessationism, but do NOT practice speaking in tongues.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I am a Calvinist...well, sort of.....

I am a Calvinist. I don’t think this is too awfully revelatory to anybody who knows me through the internet or personally. But just in case you didn’t know, I’ll say it again….I am a Calvinist. But not that kind of Calvinist. You know the kind I’m talking about, don’t you? The kind that some men like to preach against…the kind that you often see attacked in some portions of the Christian blogosphere….the kind that hates evangelism and thinks that all babies go to hell….the kind that, in counseling people who aren’t sure whether or not they are saved, will often tell people that they might need to consider the fact that they are not one of the elect……no, I’m not that kind of Calvinist. While I have no doubt that particular strand of Calvinism is alive somewhere (it must be, or why would people always argue against it so vehemently?), I’ve never personally encountered it.

“So”, you might be asking yourself, “if Ellis isn’t the type of Calvinist that fits into every type of strawman that’s ever been erected, then just what type of Calvinist is he?” I’m thrilled you asked and, as luck seems to be on your side, I happen to have this little blog in which I can quickly answer your question!

I am the type of Calvinist who believes in intense evangelizing. I don’t understand why God chooses to use the “foolishness of preaching” as a means of drawing unregenerate man to Him, but He does. I’m humbled at the thought that God actually wants to use me to impact others for eternity. He commands evangelism and my understanding of the doctrines of grace leads me to a desire to take an aggressive stance in regards to reaching the lost for Christ. We must do it.

I am the type of Calvinist who is humbled and awed at God’s grace. I don’t understand why God would ever reconcile a vile man to Himself, but He does. One of the many strawmen arguments I’ve seen regarding Calvinism is that realizing that you are one of the elect inevitably leads to a type of arrogance (“God chose me and not you”). Nothing could be further from the truth. As we catch even a glimpse of the glory, majesty, and holiness of the Almighty, the thought of Him saving lowly worms like us is beyond anything that my vocabulary can express. Even a narrow understanding of God’s grace and mercy is incapable of producing anything but profound humility and unspeakable thankfulness in the hearts of those whom He saves. I have never, even in jest, uttered that idiotic phrase, “ain’t it great to be one of the elect”. That’s a phrase I’ve only heard from those who deplore and misrepresent Calvinism. The response of the poor soul to whom the Lord shows mercy should be nothing less than awe and wonder.

I am the type of Calvinist who believes that “world” means “world” and “whosoever will” means “whosoever will”. This may be difficult for some non-Calvinists to understand, but I can say (without reservation) that any person who wants to be saved WILL be saved. I’m in danger of wading into deeper waters than I want to here, but I’ll say that this speaks to an understanding of what biblical salvation is: a complete turning away from sin and a complete surrender to Christ as Lord.

I am the type of Calvinist who has preached “evangelistic” sermons on several occasions. I not only do this without reservation, I do it with enthusiasm.

I am the type of Calvinist who believes that those who die in infancy go to heaven. John MacArthur lays out a brilliant argument for this point of view (google it). Some say this is inconsistent with Calvinism, but it’s not. While the Bible doesn’t explicitly answer this question, there is ample biblical evidence to support this position.

I am the type of Calvinist who doesn’t tend to “proselytize”. I’ve always heard the argument that Calvinists always try to “recruit” others into their little Calvinist fold, but I don’t know that I’ve seen that. I’ve been in the same church for 4 years now. During that time the fact that I’m a Calvinist has come up in only 2 or 3 conversations. In the last year I discovered, quite by accident, that there are other Calvinists in this church. While we are certainly in the minority here, it’s not prevented us from sweet fellowship with these other wonderful Christians. And to my knowledge, there has not been a single case of some poor unsuspecting non-calvinist getting confronted by a Calvinist seeking to “straighten them out”.

I am the type of Calvinist who is still a dispensationalist. While I would call myself a “soft” dispensationalist, I am a dispy nonetheless. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more of us than you might think! Not all Calvinists are adherents to Covenant Theology. As a matter of fact if you look real hard you will find that there are flavors of Calvinism out there that break all sorts of stereotypes. I’ve spoken to Calvinists who are Charismatics, amillennialists, pre-trib, post-trib, preterist, partial preterist, cessationists, non-cessationists, drinkers, tee-totalers, and, believe it or not, I actually know several Calvinists who are also part of the KJVO camp….now since that thought might actually cause some of you to black out for a second, I’ll try to wrap this up.

I am the type of Calvinist who believes in Total Inability, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. While I might certainly have some minor quibbles with other Calvinists over some of the finer points of these 5 tenants, I fully embrace them.

I first began to embrace Calvinism when I actually began to study it. I was one of those guys who thought that John Calvin was nothing more than a pawn of Satan to bring disharmony to the church (I thought the same thing about all modern Bible translations back then, too). As I began to study what Calvinism actually was, and as I began to actually study Scripture, I came to find that the “Calvinism” I’d always thought existed was nothing more than a figment of my (and many others’) imagination. And therein lies the rub. The whole point I’m attempting to make with this blog entry is that, perhaps, it’s best not criticize something you may not actually understand.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The King James Version Debate

The King James Version of the Bible is one of the most beloved translations in the English language. The language contained therein is beautifully poetic. The translation is remarkable in its form as well as in its historical significance.

I recently taught a “history of the biblical canon” series to our adult Sunday School class and I finished the series up with a section on the history of the English Bible up to the King James Version. I intentionally stopped there out of deference to the many folks in this particular assembly who hold to an extreme position regarding the King James translation. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, as I have no ill will to those who hold to the KJV as THE Bible in the English language. I certainly object to the unorthodox and sometimes heretical views that would claim some sort of a process of “secondary inspiration” in regards to the KJV, but I have no issue with folks using the KJV exclusively and attending only churches that do the same.

I personally admire the King James and its place in the history of the English bible; however, (as I’ve noted in more than one instance) it ranks 3rd or 4th on my list of preferred English translations available to us today. The ESV and NKJV both surpass the King James in quality, accuracy, and fidelity to the original texts, as well as in readability. But I’m not really writing this article to explore that particular portion of this subject so much as I am wishing to examine some of the history surrounding the King James translation.

The paragraphs below are somewhat of a summary of some of my studies on this subject over the last 5 or 10 years. I’m certain that bits and pieces here and there can be found to be “cut and paste” excerpts from somebody else’s work. As I’m studying something I will often take a note or copy a paragraph for later study. I suppose I should begin to do so with some reference to the original author! All that said, this information is available in any number of places to anyone who wishes to take the time to dig it up for themselves.

The King James Version of the Bible was originally developed to address several pressing concerns of the day….at least pressing as far as the King of England was concerned. First of all, there was an increasing amount of “disharmony” (for lack of a better word) in the Church of England. There were multiple Bible Versions in use in the early 1600’s: Tyndale’s Bible, Coveredale’s Bible, and of course, The Great Bible and the Bishop’s Bible (those two were “authorized” by the Crown). However, the Geneva Bible was, far and away, the most popular one in use. The Puritans had been using it for half a century (and would continue to do so for more than 30 years after the 1611 KJV was introduced) and many of the local “reformation-minded” churches were also using it. This was obviously a problem for both the King of England and for the Church of England given the nature of the marginal notes in the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was the most scholarly translation of both Testaments and the Apocrypha that had been produced in the Anglo-Saxon tongue up to that point in history. The marginal notes, eloquent in their expression of the views of John Calvin and the Reformation, had much to say about the papacy (for instance, one marginal note in Revelation 11:7 reads: "The beast that cometh out of the bottomless pit is the Pope, which hath his power out of hell and cometh thence.") and the Christian response to corrupt Kings (a marginal note for Exodus 1:9 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king's orders, and a note for 2 Chronicles 15:16 said that King Asa should have had his mother executed and not merely deposed for the crime of worshipping an idol). These overt doctrinal statements were not exactly popular sentiments as far as the King of England was concerned!

The Geneva Bible, in addition to being the most scholarly work available, was also the most “current”. Where the Geneva had been revised as late as 1599, the Tyndale, Coverdale, Great, and Bishop’s Bibles had not been revised or reprinted for more than a generation. The King of England (King James I) desired a new translation. And not merely a new translation…but one without notes.

Back to the reasons for the new translation....most would say that there were three major reasons that James wanted a new translation made. First of all, the Reformation had spawned in the hearts of God’s people a desire to get back to the true meaning of scripture. While James was, by most historical accounts, a very wicked man, he did have a desire as king to find some common ground with his subjects. A translation of the Scriptures that was a more scholarly work than what was currently available would certainly accomplish that.

Secondly, and closely related to this first reason, was a renewed interest in scholarship in general. With the Renaissance Age there was a greater desire for true scholarship than had been around for some time. During the period leading up to James’ reign, there had been some groundbreaking work done to this end. For instance, both Hebrew and Greek had begun to be publicly studied in universities. Hebrew and Greek grammars and lexica were now readily available. Erasmus had published a very important work in his Greek New Testament in the early 1500’s. As a King reigning during a time of great advancements in scholarship, James was somewhat obligated to encourage and even commission more scholarly work.
A third reason, and I mentioned this several paragraphs ago, was the fact that James (somewhat understandably) hated the current bible…the Geneva translation. During a discussion leading up to the decision to formally commence with a new translation, James said, "I profess, I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but I think that, of all, that of Geneva is the worst."

The king's opinion notwithstanding, the Geneva Bible was extremely popular. It was much smaller than previous works (even with all the marginal notes), and, with the advent of the printing press coupled with cheap paper, it was relatively affordable. As a result it was the first translation that found its way into most homes. As a matter of fact, for nearly 50 years after the King James Version was first released in 1611, the Geneva Bible continued to be “the Bible of the home”. As I stated previously, the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible reflected the views of the Reformation…including extensive diatribes against corrupt kings. James, by all accounts, was extremely corrupt morally. Therefore, this translation didn’t really appeal to him!

Dr. John Reynolds made the initial formal proposal for a new translation to King James. James liked the idea and got many of the top scholars of the day involved. There were 54 translators involved in the process....these were men who were skilled in the Hebrew and Greek languages. They were dived into six groups – 2 at Cambridge, 2 at Oxford, and 2 at Westminster. Three of these groups worked solely on the Old Testament; two on the New Testament; and one on the Apocrypha. As small sections were completed by each group, they were then carefully reviewed by the other five groups. In this way, it was truly a collaborative effort of the scholars and not the work of a single man or group. An interesting aside is that 80% of Tyndale’s translation, which was done completely by him except for the last portion of the Old Testament, passed on into the 1611 KJV word for word. I find this interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that William Tyndale is a personal heroe of mine.

Now while it is true that the 54 men on this panel of translators were reputable scholars, their hands were somewhat tied. Aside from there just not being the manuscript evidence available to them in the 1600’s that we have available to us today, the instructions they were given had them truly offering up a scholarly “revision” of the Bishop’s Bible. Nearly 80% of the Bishop’s Bible passed on into the KJV. This was by design as the translating committee was instructed to follow the Bishop’s insofar as it was faithful to the original texts. As a result, the KJV was not actually a literal translation from the Hebrew and Greek. If you were to compare word for word the 1611 KJV to the complete English works that preceded it, you would find that it was somewhat of a “cut and paste” effort throughout.

There was a tremendous amount of resistance to the King James Bible early on. Many of the more preeminent scholars of the day had some strongly worded objections to it. One of the most well-known (and somewhat humorous) of these responses was by Dr. Hugh Boughton – a Puritan scholar – who wrote, “The late Bible...was sent to me to censure: which bred in me a sadness that will grieve me while I breathe, it is ill done. Tell His Majesty that I had rather be rent in pieces with wild horses, than any such translation by my consent should be urged upon poor churches...The new edition crosseth me. I require it to be burnt." So, far from being openly embraced and accepted, the KJV met with a good amount of criticism from some of the more prominent Bible scholars of the day.

Over the years the KJV has gone through many changes and some major revisions. There have been many thousands of changes from the 1611 KJV to the 1769 KJV that we have today. These thousands of changes have been primarily to update spelling, some grammar, punctuation, and chapter headings. The most major of the content changes has obviously been the removal of the Apocrypha in 1638 as well as the subsequent removal of all cross reference notes linking back to passages in the Apocrypha.

With the abundance of manuscript evidence discovered in the 400 years since the work on the KJV first began, there has been a renewed effort to lend more “precision” to the texts. While the KJV is a wonderful translation and, as I’ve already stated, one of my favorites, it does have some weaknesses. For instance, Erasmus’ Textus Receptus serves as the underlying Greek text for the New Testament. While Erasmus was a brilliant scholar, he had very few Greek manuscripts available to him in the early 1500’s when he was producing his text. His Textus Receptus was based on the Byzantine text which represents a revision of the New Testament made in the 4th century A.D. and later. The Johannine Comma in 1 John 5:7-8 as well as the addition of passages like Mark 16:9-20 are great examples of some of the major errors in the Textus Receptus that passed on to the KJV. While many of my friends will say that they are not KJVO, but "Byzantine text only", the increasing scholarship and advancements in textual criticism are proving that the Byzantine text family is inferior when compared to the discoveries of the last several hundred years.

In addition to a questionable approach to translation and the use of an inferior text family, there are also other issues with the KJV – issues such as some translation errors and the cumbersome nature of using a language that has changed so significantly over the last 4 centuries are a couple that come to mind. However, I want to be clear that these things do not make the KJV a poor translation! It has been stated that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 variants when comparing all the extant texts of the New Testament. However, the vast majority of these variants are very minor and affect, in only a very few cases, the meaning of a text. None of the variants have an impact on any major doctrine of Scripture. I’ll quote an article by Mike Vlach in discussing what several scholars have to say about these variants.

"Westcott and Hort: These excellent textual critics believed that only one-sixtieth of the variants in the New Testament rise above the level of “trivialities,” or could be called “substantial variations.” Even before the recent manuscript findings this would amount to a text that is 98.33 percent pure.

"Ezra Abbott: According to his estimates the text is 99.75 percent pure.

"A. T. Robertson: He believed that only a “thousandth part of the entire text” was of any real concern. That would make the New Testament 99.9 percent free from real concern for the textual critic.

"Sir Frederic Kenyon: “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries.'"

All that to say this…while you might often see the terms like “inferior text family”, this is not really cause for alarm! On the contrary, the advances in textual criticism and the increase in manuscript evidence over the years have enabled Bible scholars to offer more pure readings of troubling passages; it has allowed for a more clear understanding of the text; and it has caused us to have a greater appreciation for the lifelong, rigorous, and meticulous work of men like William Tyndale.

Now I want to make one more clarifying statement regarding my use of the term “weaker text families”. It should be noted that even these newer, perhaps less reliable texts display a high level of accuracy. As testament to the fidelity of even the “weaker” text families, consider the testimony of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered in the late 1940’s, the Dead Sea Scrolls offered a glimpse of Old Testament manuscripts that were more than a millennium closer to the original manuscripts than anything else in existence (i.e., the O.T. Massoretic texts – the work of the Massoretes, btw, is an incredible study if you have the time). Many critics of the Bible assumed that this important discovery would ultimately serve to completely undermine the integrity of the Bible as a whole. At last the world would see just how far off the Scriptures were when compared with much older manuscripts. These critics were wrong....the Dead Sea Scrolls offered near word-for-word matchups to the other extant texts in 98% of their contents. Again, there was no major doctrine affected by the few minor inconsistencies.

I will say once again that I admire the KJV and I am profoundly appreciative of its place in history. I use it often and have never attempted to discourage others from using it. If it is your Bible of choice, I wish to encourage you to continue to use it…..often! Just please don’t attempt to convince me of some form of "secondary inspiration" that requires some ridiculous leaps of logic to buy into. Don’t refer to it as “God’s Word for the English speaking people” either, as those sorts of statements smack, not only of ignorance, but of bibliolatry.

As for me, I will continue to use the KJV as a companion Bible to the other translations that I prefer. I will continue to preach and teach from it primarily, unless I am in a church that uses multiple Bibles from their pulpit. The purpose of this little blog post is not to dissuade those who read the KJV from using it, but rather to show that, even in imperfection, we have in our English translations something that effectively communicates the will of God to us while maintaining true fidelity to the originals. I can say with a grateful heart that I am truly thankful for the men over the years who have labored tirelessly and oft-times risked their lives for the purpose of getting God’s Word into the hands of God’s people in their native tongues.

Today we are reaping, as never before in history, the benefits of those great men of the last 2000 years. There is no shortage of quality translations available to all in their own tongue. I am grateful that, in America, we are able to have a debate as to which of the plethora translations most accurately reflects the underlying texts…what a wonderful debate to be able to have!