Sunday, May 06, 2018

Assessing the Meaning of “Baptist Voices for the KJV”

“The advocates of this [KJV-Only] view form a very fringe group who often make a loud noise and cause a lot of damage to the Church.” I read this quote online last Wednesday. The testimony of the ubiquitous nature of the pro-KJV viewpoint among Baptists of the past, continuing into the present, indicates it is not “fringe” after all. As far as causing damage to churches – why is it that only those who want to hold on to the old Baptist voice are doing damage? Why aren’t those who offer a multiplicity of conflicting new voices also charged with “causing lots of damage to the churches?”

Over the past week, I have posted written testimony that the belief that the King James Bible is God’s word to the English people is widespread among by Baptists. In this there is no claim of exact agreement concerning the King James Bible among the different types of Baptists highlighted in those posts. There is also no claim that any or all of the classes of “King James Only” is currently the majority view. Nevertheless, it is more widely held than is often portrayed by its detractors. Fundamentalist to primitivist hoist the banner. Arminians, Traditionalists, Amyraldians and Calvinists raise the tune. Open communionists and closed communionists; universal church advocates and Landmarkists; isolaters and cooperators; doctors and dropouts; churches on Main Street and Possum Creek – all join the chorus, sounding out for the King James Bible. The tune is lively and sung widely across the Baptist domain.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that, though new ideas and new prophets have risen, some Baptists have supported the “King James Bible Only” over any others since the early 1800s. Peter S. Ruckman  created some unique ways of expounding his own KJV-Only view – many of which have been picked up by others – but he is not the originator of the belief that the King James Bible is the inspired word of God. While one may assert that there is “No evidence of Ruckmanism before 1950,” one cannot seriously assert that no one before 1950 believed that the King James Bible was the inspired word of God. Yes, you may if you require that everyone dot all your “I’s” and cross all your “T’s” – and require them to hold the elements that were uniquely Ruckman’s (i.e., double inspiration, advanced revelation, correcting the Greek, etc.). But, no, we cannot – cannot seriously assert that no one before 1950 believed that the King James Bible was the inspired word of God – if we are simply looking for Baptists who thought only the King James Bible was God’s word (as opposed to other English translations). The sheer diversity of Baptists who have accepted some type of “King James Onlyism” militates against a “Ruckman-only” origin, even if we had only found evidence of the belief after 1950! Ruckman did not run in all these circles, and many of them would have never heard of such a character. However, to make it even simpler, some did assert a “King James Only” belief before 1950.

My interest is in compiling historical data, not in supporting the peculiar views of Peter S. Ruckman (much with which I disagree, even far beyond his bibliology). The data presented support the conclusion that, within what has been broadly defined as “King James Only” as opposed to Ruckmanism (see James White, KJVO Controversy, pp. 23-24, for example), the belief has been historical and widespread among Baptists. Many Baptist have stood exclusively for the King James Bible and opposed other Bible versions. To assert that the “King James Only” position is a new invention requires two things: (1) ignoring the facts of history and (2) limiting the “King James Only” position to an unique Ruckman-type belief. Thousands of “King James Only” Baptists recoil at such suggestions! From the past week I highlight the following:
  • In 1817 the Tennessee Association of Baptists advised “that any person, either in a public or private capacity who would adhere to, or propagate any alteration of the New Testament contrary to that already translated by order of King James the 1st, that is now in common use, ought not be encouraged but agreeable to the Apostles words to mark such and have no fellowship with them.”
  • Barren River Association of Baptists, in their Articles of Faith adopted in 1830, considered “the Old and New Testaments, as translated by the authority of King James, to be the words of God.”
  • Bethlehem Anti-Mission Baptist Association in their Abstract of Principles in 1838 declared “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as translated by King James, to be the Word of God.”
  • In 1868 the General Conference of Freewill Baptists stated, “…we hold the sacred Scriptures in veneration, as set forth in King James’s version.”
  • In 1896 the Washington District Regular Primitive Baptist Association changed their Abstract of Principles to say “We believe that the King James Translation (out of the original tongues) is the Scripture of truth and the only rule of faith and practice.”
  • Mates Creek District Association of Old Regular Baptists by 1905, and perhaps earlier, had an Abstract of Principles that claimed “that the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament, as translated under the reign of King James, are a revelation from God, inspired by the Holy Ghost.”
  • In 1935 the Christian Unity Baptist Association said, “We believe in using only the King James version of the Bible.”
  • The 1946 Senter District Primitive Baptist Association’s Articles of Faith declare, “We believe that scriptures of the Old and New Testament as translated in the 1611 King James version of the Holy Bible, is the written work of God and the only rule of faith and practice.”
  • The Mountain Union Baptist Association’s Resolutions Committee in 1955 advised, “Let us resolve to use the King James version Bible as our only Bible. Let it be our faith and practice.”
All the extracted samples, save one, are before 1950 and all of them before Peter Ruckman wrote anything about the Bible.

The diversity of Baptists who have accepted some type of “King James Onlyism” includes Freewill and Predestinarian, Open and Closed communionists, Progressives and Primitivists, Conventionites and Independents – separated by years of divergent theology, but holding the common heritage in believers’ baptism by immersion. Such a finding weighs against a “Ruckman-only” origin. Peter Ruckman is not what these Baptists have in common.

These diverse Baptists share a common heritage of the King James Bible. Not only these Baptists, but also most of English-speaking Christendom (other than Catholics) have this common heritage of the King James Bible. Published in 1611, the King James translation became the Bible of non-Catholic English-speaking Christians for the next 400 years. No other translation has rivalled it until the recently. Many Baptists have lived and died knowing of no other Bible (and wanting no other)! On this count alone, it could be no other than “the” Bible for them. The common heritage of these now-diverse Baptists reaches back long before 1950. Peter Ruckman is not what is common to the background, faith, and practice of Baptists who have held and now hold the King James Version as their only Bible – it is the King James Bible itself!

These diverse Baptists share a clear respect for the King James Bible. The series of posts of statements by Free, Missionary, Old Regular, Separate, United, and other Baptists reflect that they certainly share a respect for the King James text of the Bible. The examples given consistently reflect their respect for the King James Bible, while at the same time demonstrating the diversity of range of the “King James Only” position. Some may accept it as absolute, while others may revere it too much to change. Every example, in my opinion, fits with the range of KJVO categorized by James White in The King James Only Controversy.

These diverse Baptists share a conservative approach to the Bible and religion. Most share a traditional approach and manner of faith & practice, are cautious of innovations, and avoid unnecessary changes. Some are so conservative that, though they now use and have always used the King James Bible exclusively, they will not alter or revise their articles of faith to state that fact! (This makes continued research in their reports, resolutions, and circular letters important.) The nature of caution and tradition in these churches suggest they would not – did not – hastily pick up an idea created by Peter Ruckman in the 1960s!

A reasonable person may disagree with the positions that Central Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Fundamental Baptists, General Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Missionary Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, Old Time Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Regular Baptists, Separate Baptists, Southern Baptists, Strict Baptists, Union Baptists, and United Baptists take on the King James Bible. A reasonable person will see that not all of these churches and/or groups are in exact agreement, even regarding the King James Bible. A reasonable person will understand a new priority for “King James Only” rose in the last half of the 20th century. A reasonable person, however, will not ignore the facts of history as if no Baptists before 1950 ever thought the King James Bible was the inspired and inerrant word of God!

Mark 12:37 “...And the common people heard him gladly.”

1 comment:

Mark Osgatharp said...

Thanks for this clear presentation of the facts. I have found the King James Bible to be food for my soul. I look for no other, only to understand it better.