The King James Only Controversy: Can We Trust Modern Translations?

By James White

Many major conflicts and much unnecessary confusion has sprung up since the publishing of updated Bible translations such as the New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Version (NASB), and others.  Many teachers and writers such as G. A. Riplinger, Peter Rickman, Samuel Gipp, and others rose quickly to attack modern translations as being heretical and even as being part of a conspiracy in partnership with the New Age Movement. James White masterfully addresses the controversy and questions surrounding modern translation in his book The King James Only Controversy.  White is the director of an apologetics organization and often takes part in debates on many different issues.

Summary

The main thesis of this book is that Modern Bible Translations are trustworthy and they translate the original text with high accuracy.  White does not claim in the book that the King James Bible is a bad translation and this is not the point of his book. White rather argues that the King James Version (KJV) is not the only faithful Bible translation and furthermore, the KJV does have some problems that some of the newer Bible translations correct.  As White says in short, “I oppose KJV Onlyism, not the King James Version itself” (18). While much of this debate has focused around emotions, personal insults, and conspiracies, this book seeks to be a clear, faithful evaluation of modern Bible translations and the accusations often brought against them.

White begins his argument in Chapter One: King James Only with a survey of the five main groups that argue that the KJV is the only translation that Christians should use.  He holds most of his corrections and arguments for later chapters but states at the end of the chapter that “Fellowship should never be based upon the English translation one carries and studies” (29). Chapter Two: If It Ain’t Broke… points out the root behind the KJV only controversy as a rejection of anything new and improved due to a love for tradition or the way things have always been done.  He uses this to go back to the way the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate dealt with the same problem.  White then continues to guild his argument with Chapter Three: Starting at the Beginning by laying basic groundwork on issues such as textual criticism, translation, and textual variants.  This chapter sets White up to begin the bulk of his specific arguments in Chapter Four: Putting It Together.  In this chapter, the book examines some of the claims of the KJV only camp mostly focusing on the history of the textual transmission of the Greek New Testament (NT) and the Textus Receptus (TR).  This chapter explains the elevation of the TR as the authorized text also explaining the flaws of this argument.  White finishes this important chapter with the history of the formation of the KJV and its later additions.

Chapter Five: The King James Only Camp takes a minor shift of attention, addressing specific advocates and writings of the KJV only camp, pointing our their logical fallacies, misunderstandings, and the clear deceitful aspects of the writings associated with this movement.  Chapter Six: Translational Differences, begins White’s investigation of differences of translation especially between the KJV and modern translations.  He explains why many of the differences exist, clearing up misunderstandings and conspiracies that undergird much of the controversy.  The next chapter, Textual Differences, is similar to the previous but addresses differences in manuscripts which effect translations, bringing about the same result as chapter five.

Chapter Eight: The Son of God, The Lord of Glory, examines and explains the texts which KJV only advocates use to accuse modern translation of undermining the deity of Jesus.  The claim that he is addressing here is the claim that “words like ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’ disappear with regularity from the corrupted Alexandrian texts upon which modern translations are based” (245). Part One of the book ends with chapter nine which addresses some important problems in the KJV and chapter ten which answers some questions surrounding modern translations and the KJV.  White’s goal is not to accuse the KJV of being a bad translation, but rather to simply address the misunderstanding that it is inherent and the modern translations are heretical and bad.  Part two of the book goes though many different texts, many of which were already dealt with in the book that can be used to accuse modern translations of being faulty or bad.

Critical Evaluation

White succinctly and clearly argued his thesis in a pervasive way.  His arguments are lacking logical fallacies and focus on the facts, the history, and the words of Scripture.  While this issues are difficult and mixed with of confusion in many churches, White shows himself to be a faithful scholar and an apt teacher on the issues surrounding this controversy such as language, translation, textual criticism, and many others.   The main thesis of this book, that Modern Bible Translations are trustworthy and they translate the original text with high accuracy, was most definitely well supported in the arguments of chapters one through ten and then proved exegetically in the second section on texts not already addressed in depth.  I would like to argue that White’s arguments had no holes or needs for revision.

The first major strength of the book was White’s knowledge and use of Church history in his arguments.  Though his argument cannot be made on the basis of history alone, White does an amazing job of explaining in chapter two how the KJV only argument is not new but was used on both the Septuagint and the Vulgate.  This supports White’s argument in a huge way, giving readers and big picture perspective on Bible translation through history.  This also exposes many of the arguments of the KJV only camp.  He finishes this argument with a home run statement, “The emotions that drive today’s KJV Only controversy are nothing new at all… As soon as we become more attached to our traditions then we are to truth, we are in very deep trouble” (40).  Similarly, in chapter four, White is able to clearly present the history of the KJV and the manuscripts behind it to clear up misunderstandings about this as well.

The second big strength of The King James Only Controversy is related to the previous quotation.  White is clear on the misunderstandings in the KJV only controversy but does it with pastoral care.  Though White may be a feisty debater, his book leaves the reader no room to accuse him of being insulting or demining.  This most definitely helps his thesis and avoids distractions.  His big concern is clearly not to shame anyone or to win the argument for the sake of winning.  His pastoral care comes through in the book as he talks about the terrible books that have come out on the subject and the way churches have been split over this issue especially in Chapter Five: The King James Only Camp.  Never does White throw the type of personal insults that are so common in literature on this topic and he does not seek to question the intelligence of those he disagrees with.  Through this pastoral care, it is made clear that his argument do not stand or fall on conspiracy theories, or the character of those in the KJV only camp, but on the facts that are presented through the pages of his book.

The strongest aspect of the book that White used to support his thesis was his exegetical and textual explanations.  His tables and explanations of texts, especially those that are commonly used in false accusations against modern translations, were in depth enough to present the facts, yet simple enough to not require a PHD.  White does not waste very much time giving logical explanations in response to accusations that modern translations are undermining the deity of Jesus or other related matters.  He gets right to the text and the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, giving the reader who is actually interested in facts and truth the ability to see it for himself.  This is also related to another main strength that White had which is knowledge of textual criticism and his ability to explain the art and science of this important work.  This was especially clear in chapter seven on textual differences where he explains at all the manuscript families in a fairly understandable way.  He clear understanding of the techniques of textual criticism also supports his argument as he answers the faulty methods of many who argue against modern translations.  For example, White correctly states, “We cannot simply count manuscripts but must weigh them, looking at their general character, age, and text-type” (198).

The final strength that I want to bring up from the book is especially found in part two.  White’s book is not just good for a one time read, but is also a useful reference tool.  He supports his thesis in such a clear and organized way, that it can be referenced when someone stumbles upon a text that has different translations.  In some ways, this section is also the nail in the coffin that completes his thesis.  By the end of the book, just about every text that KJV only people may use to “trap” someone who uses modern translations has been skillfully addressed.

Conclusion

The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? is by far the best book on this important issues which still causes major problems.  I am thankful for this work because it equips the church to better understand the Bible, how we got it, and how we should think about different translations of God’s Word.  I would personally recommend this book to anyone who wants a better greater of modern translation, or has some confusion about the King James only controversy.  This book caused me to have a great respect for the KJV and a greater trust in our English Bibles.  I hope and pray God will continue to use this book to strengthen the church and clear up misunderstandings we may have on God’s Word and its translations.

This book review was written by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren.

You can buy this book here.

Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology

By: John Hammett

After much studies and experience, John Hammett write’s Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, an in depth treatment of biblical ecclesiology (study of the church).  Hammett makes clear from the start that he is writing from a historical Baptist perspective seeking to argue many of the biblical tenants of Baptist church government and structure, though at times he shows inconsistency between the scriptures and many modern Baptist practices in the church.  Hammett is a professor of systematic theology at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as a pastor and missionary.  His Baptist teaching and pastoral background as well as his strong devotion to being faithful to the scriptures make him well equipped to write this book.

Summary

Baptist Foundations starts with an introduction where Hammett explains why he wrote the book and what makes it different.  He make clear that this book is not pragmatic but rather theological in that it focuses on what the church is and what God intends for every aspect of it.  After this, Hammett splits the book into five parts with a handful of chapters in each part.  In part one; What is the Church? he goes through the basics of the what the “the church” (ekklesia) seems to mean in the scriptures and he examines the various images also used of the church.  Hammett gives info about the way the church over the course of history has viewed itself, giving the marks of the true church.  The final chapter in part one lays out the way the church is an organized assembly, that is primarily local, living and growing, gospel centered, and spirit empowered.

In Part two; Who is the Church? Hammett addressing two main things.  He first argues that the NT views the church as a gathering of regenerate church members.  He makes clear that, “the church must be composed of believers only” (81).  In this he give four biblical arguments for why we should agree with that statement.  His argument is that the universal church is comprised of only believers, the NT calls for church discipline as the means of preserving church membership, the NT assumes that the church is composed of believers only, and finally, the book of Acts recounts only believers as those who are “gathered in” (Acts 2:41, 47, 4:4, 11:21) with believers left out.  Hammett then explains what happened that led churches to abandon this biblical reality and how churches can get it right.

Part three; How is the Church Governed? tackles the issue of church government.  He argues that the church should be composed of a plurality of elders who are in charge of leading the congregation and a group of deacons who are servants of the church but do not directly take part in leadership as the elders.  He then goes through each form of church government that is used today from the Roman Catholic model to the historical Baptist model.  He argues for the traditional Baptist view that each church should be autonomous under the leadership of Christ with cooperation between congregations but without denominational management.

In Part four; What does the church do? Hammett argues for five ministries of the church and then addresses baptism and the lord’s supper.  He uses Acts 2:42-47 and examines the five things that the church does in that text.  They are devoted to teaching, fellowship, worship, service, and evangelism.  All of these activities must be taking place in a healthy church.  Hammett also examines how different churches in our day take part in these activities.  He then moves on in this part to the ordinances of the church; baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  He begins by looking at the sacramental system as a whole, making clear that these do not bring us greater justification, but are a means of grace where we commemorate the blessings of God that we have been given through Christ.  The first ordinance discussed in baptism.  He states that “baptism is the ‘outward sign’ appointed to Scripture by which we make faith visible.  It is the ‘supreme occasion’ for confessing faith in the gospel” (266-267).  He argues that baptism is only for those who can be reasonably evaluated as having a genuine conversion.  This means that infants are not to be baptized, and even young children who make a profession of faith but who may not fully understand the gospel should not be baptized until a later date.  Baptism is to be done by emersion by the local church.  Hammett ends this part with an evaluation of the Lord’s Supper which he calls the ordinance of renewal.  He sees it as being much like the renewing of a wedding vow (278) and it proclaims the gospel in its very essence.  The Catholic idea that each time the Lord’s Supper is taken, Jesus is crucified is inconsistent with the scriptures, and this ordinance is for believers only.

The final section of the book, Where is the Church Going? Looks at the different movements in the American church and then he examines the state of the church oversees.  The first chapter of this section looks at several different directions that the church is taking.  Hammett  first evaluates seeker churches such as Rich Warren’s church and says that the heart of these churches are often positive, but there is a danger of neglecting discipleship and the building up of the body.  He also looks at megachurches and church with multiple campuses, addressing the challenges and the negative aspects that can be associated with them.  Next, he moves onto the postmodern and emergent church movement, having more of a negative perspective of them.  The final chapter addresses the future of the global church, giving some background of missions and the amazing ways we have overcome setbacks and distractions.  Hammett view in this chapter was optimistic and urgent.  The conclusion consisted of a short call for churches to commit themselves to be faithful in all areas.

Critical Evaluation

The main goal of the book, to gives a fully biblical explanation of ecclesiology was accomplished.  Though Hammett wrote from a traditional Baptist perspective, he did not argue anything merely based on Baptist traditions or organizations, but used the scriptures as his supreme authority and guide.  Each section of the book thoroughly addressed the issues that are most important in the church.  These strengths and many others support Hammett’s book.  He was also right in spending extra time and effort arguing for the Baptist tenants that have been largely forgotten such as regenerate church membership, the priesthood of all believers, and congregationalism under elder leadership.  Through many Baptist churches do not go by this perspective, any Baptist minister reading this book would have a hard time disagreeing with the conclusions that were made because they were thoroughly backed up biblically and historically.

This leads to another strength in the book, and that is its dependence on Baptist history.  Hammett argues that even through the scriptures are our authority, understanding how the church in the past has looked at particular issues will protect us from inserting our own cultural perspective on the biblical text.  This is a balanced perspective that is not often argued so well in similar books.  Hammett is completely right in his use of history to help us understand the biblical teachings of ecclesiology while as the same time, not placing too much weight on it.  Another example of him using history to help the reader understand the biblical text and why the church is the way it is comes in chapter three.  Here he explains how “business in American life affected churches in the twentieth century” (71). He points out the way the single pastor model at least partly came from the CEO model of the modern day.

Hammett does an amazing job in part four talking about the ministry of the church to teach by taking present day churches and presenting the methods they use to teach.  By explaining the way Capitol Hill Baptist Church does Sunday school classes through levels called “The Life Development Institute”, and the way other churches have different teaching perspectives, the reader can know what the church is called to do and how to carry it out practically.  The way Hammett did this helped him accomplish his propose of explaining contemporary ecclesiology to strengthen the church.

Hammett’s exegetical research and knowledge was evident throughout the book.  For example, even through many take for granted a proper understanding of the Greek word for church (ekklesia), Hammett goes in-depth into the NT usage and nuances that are present in the biblical text.  The way he split up the word into the way it is used (31) is extremely helpful to the reader, no matter their theological education level.  He made it simple, yet in-depth so that the reader is able to know when reading the Bible, how the biblical author could be using the word church.  In the same section, Hammett also give the images of the church, one again using his exegetical ability in an amazing way.  He makes the information accessible, clear, yet detailed.  There are no examples of him using any biblical text for his only motives, but stays faithful to the author’s intention in every instance.

The book’s evaluation of seeker sensitive churches throughout the book is very gracious but also quite probing.  For example, he states, “Paul’s statement about becoming “all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22) was not given as instruction for Christian worship but as a model for Christian living” as a response to seeker sensitive churches formatting there services primarily for unbelievers.  Hammett does not make the mistake of simply bashing these churches, but he rightly gives some guidelines and some minor corrections that need to be considered before orienting a church to be consumed with getting more people inside.

Hammett does a great job correcting unwise practices in the church and giving practical solutions to these problems.  For example, when looking at baptism, he points out that “rebaptism” are unusually high in our day, and many of these baptisms take place in Baptist churches because young people are baptized before they have been regenerated.  He points out that Baptist churches are often doing a similar thing as the Catholics are doing by baptizing children before they are regenerate.  He give the practical solution of waiting until a professing Christian child is older where they can be evaluated before being affirmed.  Hammett’s assessment is right-on and helpful in light of the negative effect that this mistake has been having.  He is also not overly critical or harsh, but is rather strategically gracious in his assessment giving biblical solutions that work.

There was one major problem in the book in one specific place.  Hammett, as he was discussing Elders, did not disagree with the idea of women teaching men in Sunday school classes and other areas of church life.  He states, “The propriety of women serving in such roles is debatable and deepens… what seems clear is the prohibition of women serving as elders” (171).  Sadly, Hammett fails to look at 1 Timothy 2:12 where Paul says, I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over men in the church”.  Though he is right that Paul is limiting the office of elder to men, he fails to see, or at least make clear, that the reason for this is that Elders have a teaching and authority role which has implications for women teaching in a Sunday School class.

Conclusion

Despite my one major disagreement, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches was well written and biblically sound. I would recommend the book to any Christians, even if they do not identify as Baptist.  I am fully persuaded this if every Baptist pastor sat down and read this book, the world would look much different within ten years because of it.  His call for biblically faithful churches is needed so that the church can go fourth in its mission of glorifying God in all areas.

Book Review by Jonathan Ahlgren
You can buy the book here.

Also see Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age and other books also by John Hammett


Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches

By: Russel D. Moore

This book is an excellent resource and encouragement for any Christian. It is helpful because the world, unfortunately, has always had and always will have orphans until Jesus comes back. Children are fatherless as a result of the sin that entered the world through the fall. We are thankful that he has provided governments and private agencies the ability to send these fatherless children to loving homes but we as Christians have a special calling to create an adoption friendly culture.  In Adopted for Life Russell Moore goes through the practical ways that we can be adoption friendly.

Dr. Moore and his wife adopted two boys from Russia carefully and he accurately weaves biblical principles and theology into his own adoption story. He goes through the ups and downs of their
roller coaster of building their family. That alone is encouraging and shows the work of God in their lives. In the Bible it is stated many times that we are adopted from being orphans into God’s family as sons (Eph. 1:5, Rom. 8:15). This is something I have been mindful of and I thought it was a neat concept. However, after reading this book the concept was made so much more clear. When we are born again into the family of God we can remember leaving behind our old life and following Jesus. This is something that Dr. Moore relates to adopting his sons. He says, “The trauma of leaving the orphanage was unexpected to me because I knew how much better these boys’ life would soon be. I thought they knew too. But they had no idea. They couldn’t conceive of anything other than the status quo. My whispering to my boys, ‘You won’t miss that orphanage’ is only a shadow of something I should have known already. Our Father tells us that we too are unable to grasp what’s waiting for us-and how glorious it really is. It’s hard for us to long for an inheritance to come, a harmonious Christ-ruled universe, when we’ve never seen anything like it.”(page 46) This entire book is filled with Gospel connections like this one. It not only pointed me to desire to support adoption but it also pointed me to worship my Savior who adopted me!

The church also plays a big role in supporting, teaching and pursuing adoptions. Talking about the rarity of focus on adoptions in the church nowadays, he says, “It becomes a focus only when a church member personally faces infertility or knows of particular children without parents. Until then, for most of us, adoption rarely crosses our minds.” He encourages pastors and leaders in the church to make a culture that is hospitable to adoption. Dr, Moore goes through how churches can help or hinder adoptions.

In Adopted for Life, Dr. Moore also goes through the ups and downs of the adoption and post adoption process. He talks about the journey the Lord took him on of coming to terms with adopting his children. Many people are similar, as he was, who think that adoption is plan B, a last resort, or long term babysitting. In regards to this he says, “That’s a common sentiment, one that I shared myself at the beginning. Adoption seems to many infertile couples (including Christians) to be a second-best option for those who can’t in any other way have children “of our own.” He talks about how to know if you or someone close to you is ready for adoption. There are many misconceptions about adoption and Moore goes through these as well and he talks about the correct and biblical ways to think about all aspects of adoption. He also goes through life after adoption and what struggles and joys one might face (both child and parents) giving very practical advice and ways to handle these situations.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone! Even if adoption is not on the horizon for you, it is still helpful beyond words to go through the theology of adoption (ours and orphans), the church’s role in adoptions, and also to know what happens in the process of adoption on so many levels. Russell Moore is transparent and thorough in the book making his book easy to follow and intriguing to read. This is one of the best books I have ever read!

Book Review by Hannah Ahlgren

You can buy the book here.

Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, A Study of the Church in the Four Provinces

By: Roland Allen

Missionary Methods is an important book in the history of cross-cultural missions.  It has had an impact on the way overseas missions is done and thought about all the way into the 21st century.  As the title makes clear, the point of the book is to examine Paul’s missionary methods and ascertain if we should be using his methods, or our methods.  In the book he advocates for the former, pushing against the colonial missions ideas that were prevalent in his day.  Ronald Allen was an Anglican missionary to China from 1895-1903.  As a missionary, he saw the problems with the colonial missions methods that were being utilized and returned to Scotland.  He began pushing for indigenous missions practices that would be used to more effectively share the gospel in the unreached and begin church planting movements.  This book flows out of Allen’s experience and struggles as he sought to determine how missions was to be done in his day.  After writing Missionary Methods in 1912, he went on to write The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hindered It in 1927, both of which are still used by missionaries and assigned in seminary classes.

Allen makes his thesis clear from the very start.  Paul’s missionary methods, primarily recorded in Acts, informs us on how to do missions and missionaries need to conform to his methods.  He states, “It is impossible but that the account so carefully given by St. Luke of the planting of the churches in the Four Provinces should have something more than a mere archaeological and historical interest.  Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures it was ‘written for our learning’” (6).  The most important obstacle to this thesis that Allen focuses on proving wrong, is the claim that Paul’s situation was different than ours so his methods are not as effective as our modern methods.  He makes clear, that the real reason Paul’s methods in the four provinces is undermined is because, “St. Paul’s method is not in harmony with the modern Western spirit” (9).  After the introduction in chapter one, Allen continues with ten chapters dealing with individual aspects of missions and how we learn from Paul how they ought to be handled.  Each of these chapters has a similar format and goal.  They seek to show how Paul’s situation and circumstance did not give him anymore of an advantage than we have.  Allen highlights the negative effects of doing missions our own way to point the reader to consider Paul’s way.  For example, when addressing the issue of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he explains that when we try to select only a few people to do everything in a new Christian community, we end up running into several problems that Paul did not have when he trained leaders from within congregations to replace him (83-85). Furthermore, after explaining what Paul did in detail, he applies it to the modern missionary situation. His goal is the same throughout these sections; Paul’s method of doing missions must take presence over our own ideas and methodology. The book draws to a close with five rules for missionaries that he argues are essential to missions based off of Paul’s method explained in the preceding ten chapters.

Overall, Missionary Methods is a well written book that is greatly helpful for Christians seeking to understand how missions are to be done effectively and faithfully.  Though we live 2,000 years after Paul, Allen does a superb job in showing that his methods still work.  In fact, Paul’s methods are the only ones that are faithful.  The book’s thesis is biblically sound and argued practically.  Below, I explain that strength is primarily seen in its boldness, historical aptitude, sound overarching argument, insight into the barriers to missions and faithful use of the biblical text.

It is understandable why this book is still used and respected today.   As long as this book is read, it will continue to positively lead people away from faulty human based strategies to missions and towards the effective biblical pattern set forth by Paul.  No matter what someone’s background on missions, anyone who reads this book will have a hard time disagreeing with Allen.  He did a great job in showing how Paul’s missionary methods can work today as they worked in his day.  I would recommend this book to any Christian who is contemplating or doing cross-cultural missions.  The truths of the book had a large impact on me and the way I think about every aspect of missions from finances to authority.  Though the book is old, the truths are timeless and we should be thankful for the impact that Allen has had on the way people have thought about missions.

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy the book here.

Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction

By: Sam Allberry

As people living in the 21st century, the issue of homosexuality is most definitely a head turner.  Christians often want to avoid the issue and when it is talked about, there is often much confusion.  Honestly, the church needs help.  Many Christians have taken the easy road out and have affirmed homosexuality as something that is ok.  Others have taken the other way and have only cast shame and judgment without considering how the gospel brings hope.  This problem  makes this book important.  Sam Allberry provides help, truth, and love in a way that no other book on this issue does or can. Allberry knows what he is talking about.  Not merely because he is a Christian, but because same sex attraction (SSA) has affected his life, so he is able to share his story about it.  In other words, this book is not your average Christian telling other Christians how to deal with an issue that has never affected him.  No, this is a man that struggled with this issue biblically because it had a real impact on his life.  This is why Sam Allberry is qualified to give guidance and help to Christians thinking thorough this issue that has affected our generation more than any other.

As a matter of fact, every Christian in our day should read Is God anti-gay.  The issue of homosexuality and SSA is too important to ignore.  There are people in churches all over who struggle with SSA but are afraid to share their struggles.  They end up buried with guilt without anyone to help them think through the topic of sexuality biblically.  Our churches need help.  Churches need to be open about this issue, providing grace always pointing to the gospel.  Sam Allberry is that loving hand and clear voice that says, I’ve been there, let me help you.  Whether you experience same-sex attraction or not, this book will equip you so that you can think biblically on the issue and help yourself, and/or others in need.  I would say that the book is worth its weight in gold, but that would not be saying too much considering that it is so short and small.  The benefit of its short length though, is that is accessible to everyone, including you.

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy the book here.