Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Four Crises of a Challenged KJVO

I often marvel, as do others, at the extreme difficulty in getting KJVO Christians to even listen to the other side of the argument. We have gone round and round on the issue for 30+ years and I don't think a lack of information is to blame. Occasionally a new angle will present itself but again, there are definite psychological and sociological barriers for these folks. At this stage in the controversy, I think it's high time to focus on these "barriers to leaving." I have identified four distinct crises confronting a KJVO when they are asked to look toward the multiple versions used in mainstream Christianity. I will discuss them, and then I will talk about how I moved past those barriers in my own life, as an ex-KJVO.


1. A crisis of identity
The KJVO crowd sees their cause as a natural extension of the original fundamentalist fight for the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. To not be KJVO is to not be fundamentalist, but to be neo-evangelical. Neo-evangelical is a slur of the worst sort among KJVOs. Of course, neo-evangelicals are demonized among this crowd; they are represented as worldly and compromising their stand for truth, traitors to the fundamentals of the faith, contemporaries of the Laodicean church of Rev 3, and worthy of God's wrath. Suffice it to say that there is a tremendous amount of over-generalization in these declarations. Again, to not be KJVO is considered a sure sign of neo-evangelicalism, with all that entails.

2. A crisis of conscience
The KJVO crowd sees new versions as tools of Satan, taking away the deity and the blood and the name of the Lord, and removing verses. In addition, men behind the text of the modern versions are slandered as Satanists, new-agers, etc. This guilt-by-association, however false, is a classic meat-offered-to-idols issue. To use a new version then would be to partake in Satan's plan, and water down doctrine.

3. A crisis of certainty
The KJVO crowd can't understand how you can have the word of God unless the printed text you hold is 100% error free. In other words, if you can't be certain about the text, you can't trust it.

4. A crisis of fellowship
All of the above result in this last crisis, a crisis of fellowship. In summary, to not be KJVO means you are a duped neo-evangelical, guilty of compromise and watered-down doctrine, trusting your own intellect rather than adhering to the 100% pure KJV. As such, you are a threat to the church, an enemy of true fundamental Christianity, and blinded by Satan.
It is no wonder KJVOs refuse to fellowship with those that disagree on this issue. It is no wonder that KJVOs tend to get rather mean with their opponents at times. Given this environment, for a KJVO to switch sides is to essentially lose the fellowship of his church and often his family.


So you can see the strongholds keeping KJVOs in the fold. How did I manage my own switch?

After years of watching fellow church members get shafted at the hands of dictator pastors I decided I didn't want to identify with that brand of fundamentalism anymore. Although my conscience was bound to KJVOism, this caused me to search out the issue with an open mind. My honest searching freed my conscience to embrace new versions, and provided me with a new perspective so I could trust the Bible even though some places in the text are debatable. In addition, I also realized that the KJVO slice of Christianity was only a small, fringe group, and that the majority of Christians where to my left.

Unfortunately, I was naive concerning the fourth crisis, "a crisis of fellowship." I had this idea that I could get along with them- agree to disagree. Thus began 6 years of tension culminating a very horrible experience which only served to reinforce the original desire to identify elsewhere- a sort of labor and birth, if you will. My journey taught me that you can get along with KJVOs if you keep it in the closet and stay clandestine. But then once they find out, you become a neo-evangelical deceiver of the worst sort.


- An Issue of Trust

So does all this provide a magic answer to help us help KJVOs see the light? No. It merely underscores the massive difficulty faced in helping them see through it all. The biggest crisis of all three is the crisis of conscience. It truly is a meat-offered-to-idols situation. You see this most clearly in "nominal KJVOs," the people who are KJVO solely by virtue of their surroundings and influences. Their consciences have been burdened with numerous ad hominem attacks on everybody and everything surrounding new versions, by extensive guilt-by-association techniques, and by allegations of omitted verses. It isn't a matter of facts; it's a matter of trust. They won't remember the specifics of all the allegations, but the cumulative effect will leave them unable to trust new versions. They truly love the Lord, they are nice to those who disagree, but they inwardly fear His displeasure and judgment if they crack open an NIV.

-The Role of the Spirit

I think the answer lies in properly understanding the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is not, on its own, a vehicle for truth. Only as the Holy Spirit opens the things in Scripture do we understand truth. This is Biblical; we are told that the things of the Lord are spiritually discerned (I Cor 2:14). A born-again believer with an NIV is better than an atheist with a KJV. Do you not trust God to open the Scriptures to you?

Some might quibble with my understanding of "truth." Jesus, the living Word, said that He is the truth. Christ in us, the hope of glory, (Col 1:27) is made real through the down payment of the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14), who teaches all things (Jhn 14:26) and bears witness (I Jhn 5:6). The Scriptures are unprofitable, if they are not mixed with faith (Heb 4:2). Yet we are told that the Scriptures ARE profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (II Tim 3:16). They can only be profitable through faith which comes by the Spirit (Gal 5:5,22; II Cor 4:13).

An understanding of the role of the Spirit in relation to Scripture goes a long way towards answering the crises of conscience and certainty. Too often the first response made to KJVOs is to point out errors, or establish some fact of history to show to fallacy of the position. This is unwise. The main response to KJVOs must be Biblical in nature- then, use facts to backup the position.

So firstly, a response would include a discussion of the role of the Spirit as Teacher.
(A fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Spirit under girds much of IFBx error, but that's another topic.)

-The Example of Christ

Christ quoted the OT Scriptures time and time again. He recognized the authority of Scripture. He used Scripture to set out the facts. He was Biblical in the highest sense of the word.

Christ said "it is written" and proceeded to quote the Old Testament- most times in a way that is different from the KJV. Was Christ wrong? Absolutely not! Christ was quoting a different Old Testament text than that which underlies the KJV. Using a different version wasn't a problem for Christ. His focus was not on the text-type but on the truth contained within it.

(For some examples of these differences, see http://www.kalvesmaki.com/LXX/NTChart.htm . Christ was more than likely using the Septuagint, although if He was not it doesn't challenge the point being made.)

Additionally, forasmuch as Christ rebuked the Pharisees, he never said one thing about Bible versions. He either 1) approved of the version of the text available in His day (which was obviously different than the KJV) or 2) didn't think it was a big deal.

Christ was focused on showing the power of God through His personal ministry. That was what was important. Problems with the dominant OT text of the day were not. Neither should we make a big deal about it.

The Pharisees problem was not that they didn't have the Scripture, but that they twisted it to suit their own ends- a problem that still sorely plagues the church today. No version can prevent this.


Between the trust and fellowship issues, many KJVO folks may decide it isn't worth it. In light of the facts, they may soften their stand a bit, but their lot is with the KJVO crowd. They have too much invested, personally, in these ministries. Or, they figure it isn't a big deal for them anyway; nobody has a problem with the KJV so why change? Perhaps they fear losing friends and family over the issue.

The problem is, with the KJVO crowd, if you walk out the door to check out the competition but never leave the yard, you end up back in the house. Fellowship is close, and the "us vs. them" dynamic employed to maximum effect. The risk of becoming hardened against non-KJVO Christians and becoming belligerent over the issue is unacceptably high, back in the "house." And that is truly tragic.

Secondly, you throw away a chance to grow in knowledge. We are to worship the Lord with all our mind, and that includes diligently seeking the truth and grasping it no matter what.

Thirdly, you essentially cut yourself off from true fellowship with the majority of Christians who are not KJVO. We are warned there is to be no schism in the body. They may say this isn't an issue and they can choose their own friends, but as a KJVO in a KJVO church, expect your ties to "neo-evangelical liberals" to be thoroughly questioned, especially if you have a position of leadership. You are under a constant diet of preaching to separate from liberals like those who aren't KJVO. The concern is real.


The church at large needs to be sensitive to those who are KJVO, without tolerating those who would fight over it. A KJVO who has yet to seriously approach the issue on a personal level will never set foot in a church that uses another translation or multiple translations consistently. Yet the crisis of fellowship must be averted before it becomes a real crisis.
The need then is for conservative churches, both moderate fundamentalist and conservative evangelical, who will standardize on the KJV although they are not KJVO and would be willing to deal with anyone who pushes a KJVO agenda. This provides a platform for fellowship while not offending the sensibilities of nominal KJVOs. Over time they may still use their KJV but come to trust and respect other versions and the people that use them.


Even in a scenario like this, few KJVOs would enter the door of such a church because of the numerous other shibboleths KJVOs look for in what they consider a "good" church- 100% topical preaching, theatrics in the pulpit ("hot preaching"), lots of programs, "Baptist" in the name, strict rules about hair and music and pants on women (separation), etc. KJVO is merely one part of a bigger construct of Christian legalism- sanctification by works. As one thoughtful KJVO acquaintance of mine courageously put it- KJVOism, standards, etc. are all substitutes for revival. Holiness is never built on the back of man's work but on the power of the Spirit. True Spirit filled holiness is never a standard you have to enforce, but an irrepressible witness to the power of Christ.

I have seen KJVOs become willing to deprecate the issue in their own lives only to go back and listen to a preacher or old friend revive one of the four crises in their mind, causing them to revert back to that way. Usually this happens when the KJVO has not fully shed the bondage of legalism. If they had, the crises wouldn’t mean anything to them in light of the Spirit’s sustaining power.


Endeavor to assimilate KJVOs into non-KJVO Christian communities where the KJV is standard “issue,” without tolerating pro-KJVO activism. Moving them out of KJVO communities is key to success.
Recognize the bigger battle is Christian legalism. If they don’t overcome this, their chances of overcoming KJVO are small.
Give it time. Focus on fellowship. Discuss the issue when they give you the chance but don’t “join the fight.”
Approach the issue not with facts but with biblical example and theology. Let facts seal the deal once they show a willingness to change their minds.
Pray for them… the situation is difficult and the outcome unsure.


Damien said...

Right on, bro. Your journey is so similar to thousands of others. And what stands out is the fact that you have apparently put time into thinking how to go about a real change - which shows you're not trying to fight the fire of KJVO with fire yourself. It is so tempting at times to fight back at their slanders, name calling, and such. But at the end of the day, a good testimony speaks hundreds of volumes more for our Lord. God bless!

Bob Hayton said...

Great post, you bring up some great points. I think there is a place for KJV using non-strict fundamentalist churches, but unfortunately they're few and far between. Why would an average church today want to hang on to the KJV when they are trying to reach the unchurched modern people around them (who would understand the ESV much better than the KJV)?
Ultimately we have to trust God to work in their hearts, but you are so right about the proper approach to dealing with these folk. Praise God for opening my eyes.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob Hayton

David T. said...

Bob, I get your point- trying to reach the world with a KJV is a tall order. Yet on the other end we have KJVOs who can't bring themselves to use any other. I have thought a little bit about this and there is no easy answer, but perhaps the NKJV can be of some help? Again, the NKJV is just as bad as an NIV to KJVOs, but it may be similar enough to provide a gateway.
I think KJVOs _just_don't_get_ how alien the KJV text is to today's readers.

Bob Hayton said...

I agree it's a sticky issue. The NKJV is actually quite good and there are quite a few denominations and congregations that prefer it, so that is a thought.

The Puritan said...

I'm KJVO hardcore, and hold to the five solas, doctrines of grace, classical covenant - federal - theology; not a legalist; and there are many just like me.

Your painting all KJVO (I accept the term gladly, just as my forebears accepted gladly the term Puritan) as a stereotyped form of fundamentalist is very self-serving. Was Edward Hills a fundamentalist/legalist?

Basically what I'm saying: you may have needed to get out of a doctrinally and culturally shallow environment, but don't connect all that to KJVO.

David T. said...


As I was growing up my mom mentioned something about Presbyterian KJVOs. Honestly though, other than EF Hills, where are they? The KJVO field is virtually totally dominated by the IFBx crowd. If you could point me to some non-fundamental-baptist KJVO links I would be interested.

The Puritan said...

Go to the PuritanBoard and read the Translations and Manuscripts forum. There are four or five extremely well-informed, irenic, and articulate writers on the Traditional Text side. The forum overall is pro-Critical Text, but they grudgingly put up with the presence of the Masoretic/Received text people mainly because they are the brightest and best defenders of their position on the entire forum.

Francis Turretin, John Owen, the Westminster Confession of Faith are good sources as well, from the 17th century.

Unlike what critical text scholars will tell you this subject has a long history going back to the first generation reformers themselves. The Roman Catholic church eventually mounted the counter-Reformation itself on the back of the manuscripts issues and variants and so on. They lost back then, but then the liberals of the 19th century brought it all back and a sleeping and easily duped Christendom (I'll use that word in this case) fell for it.

David T. said...

Thanks- I will check it out!

David T. said...

You can't join PuritanBoard unless you are already Reformed; I know, I had my request denied. It's a pity; I would have liked to interact with them.