Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A prickly hypothetical

At our Thirsty Theologians meeting last evening we skipped across the surface of many deeper waters but one that has stuck in my thoughts was the question of whether any of us would accept a pastorate in a KJV-only church. I answered that I would be willing to, but gave little qualification to that answer. The more considered answer I wish I had given is that while I would not disguise myself as a KJV-only advocate in order to get the appointment, I would be willing to teach out of the KJV so long as the church is willing to have me preach according to conviction. Both points develop out of the fact that true ministry cannot proceed out of inauthenticity—how can fresh and sulpherous water both flow from one fountain?

That said, I doubt that any KJV-only church would have someone who expresses the mere acceptability of that version, insisting instead on a minister who holds to the unique authority of it. But, should such a church allow such a one, I would be willing to minister God's truth there, with no agenda but to share the word of God. I would seek to build them up in a base of doctrine out of non-contested scripture over perhaps a period of years before daring to tackle anything contested. Indeed, so long as I could sense an intractable spirit on this matter I would preach series of texts that avoid seriously contested passages (½% of the NT). But, I would not find myself in Isaiah 34 preaching about unicorns and satyrs! When the translation errs in any substantial way, I would have to begin with the KJV, transition into the Greek and explaining my own translation, and draw much as support for the correct translation from other scripture as possible (out of that doctrinal base that had been developed in many years of ministry).

Finally, suppose there was a tremendous uproar and division as the result, is that necessarily bad? If this translation has become an idol then isn't it a good thing to bring some, who are willing to lay down that idol, out of that place? I don't know, but I tend to think that doctrine is more important than unity. If not, then what makes the church distinct from the Moose Lodge? Isn't it truth that unites us?


Anonymous said...

I whole-heartily agree that unity is subsequent to doctrinal fidelity. I also agree that to minister from anything but authenticity and truthfulness, is an undermining of a deceitful heart. This kind of ministering is not helpful. I believe that a pastor ought to lead by conviction that is rooted in scripture. He is to be faithful with that which the Chief Shepherd has given him. He is to lead, "not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted...being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2)." He ought to lead and feed his sheep with gentleness, yet wielding the staff to protect against wolves that would bring error into the body. I agree that a pastor should not "tackle anything contested" during his early tenure, just as long as what is contested is not a foundational, uncompromising doctrine that scripture clearly affirms and essential to the gospel. I personally think a pastor ought to teach explicatively and expositionally, preferably teaching book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, clause by clause, and as he teaches (and cares for) the flock, explain the text (from the King James Version) including why their translation says what it does (from the Greek/Hebrew) as well as other renderings that would help support the meaning and sense of what is being translated. He ought not to shy away from difficult texts just for the sake of avoiding tension (KJV-only) (There is a good way to be fired by the church, namely for such reasons as gospel integrity!). Hopefully, as he cares for his people, and is proven faithful as teacher/preacher, his people will follow him and trust his teaching of scripture. Unfortunately, however, there have been many (including myself) who, unwisely, have sought to bring great reformation and accomplish there own agendas, and in a short period time seek to weed out all error at the expense of exemplary, Christ-like leadership and shepherding. This is not helpful to the people as they need to be gently led by a loving and caring shepherd. Let us remember the gracefulness of our Lord who forbears our imperfect theology and continues to bless his word despite our finiteness and imperfections.

Eric said...


I just heard about your blog, and I look forward to hearing what is on your mind.

On the KJV-only issue, I agree with you and Anthony. However, I doubt that you, he, or I would get very far with a KJV-only church. Why? Because of our Reformed theology. Do you know of any KJV-only churches that actually hold to the Doctrines of Grace?

Just wondering, Eric

Shan said...


Let me add a hearty "amen" to most all of what you said, and a thank you for crafting so eloquent a response. The one thing I might differ on is the idea that verse-by-verse preaching is always to be preferred over topical preaching. That is almost painful to say, given the way verse-by-verse exposition is drilled into our heads, like a mantra, at Southeastern. Certainly it is safer, making it difficult to distort a text by plucking it out of its context, and is quite useful to explore all the nuance of meaning intended by the author. But for the teaching of broad concepts and foundational principles we see a consistent practice by the apostles of topical preaching. I have yet to find a biblical example of verse-by-verse exposition. I have often thought that an excellent way to begin a preaching ministry would be to spend a year surveying the history of salvation from creation to the new heavens and new earth, or as Sproul called a similar series, From Dust to Glory. Begin a ministry with 52 weeks of topical preaching? Anathema! I really think most believers have no idea what to make of the “children’s stories” in the Jewish Scriptures, and what better way to introduce doctrine than to explain how the garden, the flood, Babel, Jonah, the exodus, the giving of the law, Jericho, et al tie into God’s providential plan to provide for himself a people. This is a foundational concept that you might convey in 30+ years of exposition, or in 1 year of topical preaching. Of course, this is not an either/or proposition. Once the foundation is laid, exposition should, I think, be used to mortar the open gaps in the foundation and to build the bulk of the structure.


So good to see you join in the conversation. Honestly, I am unsure how to answer your question since I know little about the theology that is held by most KJV-only churches. Though I can agree that the issue of reformed versus free-will soteriology is more likely to be a bar from certain ministries than what version the preaching is done from. That is really the question underneath the one posted that tickled my fancy. I do have a question as to whether a reformed Baptist can only legitimately take a pastorate in a church that bold proclaims itself as reformed. Obviously, to snake one’s way into a position in a free-will Baptist church with the agenda of ‘enlightening’ them is wrong. But what about going into an average Baptist church, where the average member holds to 2-3 points (even if he doesn’t know it) and preaching the word faithfully, apart from an agenda, and seeing what God does? In other words, is it necessary to leave all but the “reformed Baptist” church to the Arminian preachers? And I think it is no deceit to avoid using loaded-terms like Calvinism when interviewing with a church—the uninformed bias and vaunted opposition against Calvinism is too much to overcome in an interview. If asked, “did Christ die on the cross for everyone”, honestly, I could not respond with a one word reply, nor should I. Anyway, it is a very interesting subject, thanks for your responses.