The KJV and Orthodoxy(!?)

(This is a repost from November 2014)

Unfortunately, some Christians view Bible translation as a litmus test of orthodoxy.  Probably the most notable example is the KJV-Only view.  Years ago I met a person who doubted someone could “get saved” by using any translation but the KJV. This person also believed that the best and most conservative Bible-believing Christians only used the KJV.  From Baptist churches to Reformed churches, some people sadly make Bible translation a major issue of orthodoxy and refuse to budge an inch.

In light of this discussion, I appreciate James White’s The King James Only Controversy.  White rightly notes that Bible translation preference and use is a matter of Christian liberty:

“The use of a particular English translation of the Bible should come from one’s study of the relevant issues and from one’s involvement in the local fellowship of believers.  Many factors can, and should, go into your decisions as you purchase translations.  Whether you like a more literal, formal translation or a more dynamic, free-flowing translation will impact your choices.  Study editions, companion volumes, concordances, even print style and size are all issues to take into consideration.  What translation is predominant in your local church is important as well, especially if you will be teaching or leading Bible studies.  But one thing that should never be a factor is intimidation.  You should never have to wonder if you are going to be accepted by others if you use an ESV rather than a KJV (or vice-versa).  Fellowship should never be based upon the English translation one carries and studies.”

“I firmly believe that if people wish to use the KJV, they should feel free to do so.  If they find its poetic form, its rhythmic beauty, to be preferable to ‘modern language,’ let no one be critical.  God made us all differently, for which we should be very grateful.  But while we are to be quick in granting this freedom to others, we cannot expect that it will be given by those who have joined the KJV Only movement.  For them this is not an issue of freedom but of doctrine, belief, and faith.  They often make the use of anything but the KJV an impediment to relationship with others.  That sharing in the gospel of Christ can be disrupted by such an issue should cause anyone a moment’s reflection, and more than passing concern….”

James White, The King James Only Controversy, p. 28-9.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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