Mark Ward spoke at the last FBFI (now called Foundations Baptist Fellowship International) conference at Mike Harding's church in Troy, Michigan, and he writes on his blog about what he said, including providing a link to the audio. To cut to the chase, he called the FBFI to separation from KJVO men or churches. That was number one on his list.
I'm open to calls to separation. I'm interested in what the Bible says I'm supposed to separate from, therefore, I'm also interested in what men are teaching about what I'm supposed to separate from. There is a lot that one could say men should separate from. For instance, let's say a church refuses to practice church discipline. Do you separate from that church? That wasn't number one on Mark's list. It didn't come up. That's just an example.
If I've got him right, and I'm trying to get him right, not misrepresent him, Mark is saying that KJVO men and churches deserve separation because of the following. I want to get it all and I think I can in two points. They are using an English translation with words that their audience will no longer understand, so these men and churches inhibit their people from understanding and, therefore, living all of the Word of God. More so, and second, these men and churches influence or cause other people to use a translation that won't allow people to understand and, therefore, live all the Word of God, because the King James Version is no longer intelligible.
Mark says his argument comes from 1 Corinthians 14 in that edification requires intelligibility. I think there are two possibilities as to the origin of Mark's argument. One, he doesn't like KJVO and he went to the Bible to see if he could get an argument against it. From what I've read of him, I think I could prove that's what he did. I'm open to his showing me how this is wrong. Two, he studied his Bible, came to 1 Corinthians 14 in that study, and it exposed KJVO as violating scripture. It would be great if critical text men started with the Bible. I'd love that. I'd love if they wanted the Bible to be believed and practiced and their historic doctrine causes them to act. I haven't noticed that about critical text men. They start with the non-biblical and then go looking for a way to use the Bible to argue it. This is like a lot of sermons I heard through the years in fundamentalism, where men have a point and then go searching for a verse to back it up.
Mark's separating doctrine is not a historic doctrine. I've never heard it before. I'm not discounting it because I've never heard it. If it's in the Bible, then it's in the Bible. We should deal with it. However, there is other bibliological doctrine that has been on the table for centuries, written by giants in theology and passed down to us today, and those don't seem of interest to critical text men. They ignore them. I haven't noticed them caring about certain historic and biblical doctrines of bibliology. They ignore some of those, and never once of course would bring them up to separation.
Why does KJVO merit a conversation in the FBFI about separation? Again, I'm for separation. It is a biblical doctrine, but if you are going to be credible and authoritative in a belief and practice of separation, then you need to be following the Bible in that belief and practice. You can't pick out a certain pet doctrine or practice that in particular that you don't like and then separate from violators in a unique fashion. You've got to be consistent with that principle and make sure that you do all the separating you are supposed to do. This is where fundamentalism, or maybe it needs to be called foundationalism now, comes up way short.
Anyone should be confused about FBFI separation belief and practice. I've thought it was supposed to be about fundamentals or foundations. I've also thought it was supposed to be about gospel issues. Could same sex marriage acceptance be included? But is that a fundamental or a gospel issue? What about music? Is worldly music in church fashionable for separation? What about nudity? What about continuationism? Do you see what I mean? It's impossible, I think, to understand their position. I do get how that the KJVO throws red meat to a lot of Bob Jones University styled fundamentalists. I get that. I've called it the third rail of fundamentalist politics. But how is that scriptural? If you do not start with scripture on separation, then you are going to get it wrong. They get it monumentally wrong always. I'm not exaggerating that.
Mark is saying that the FBFI is required by the Bible to separate over men who violate his particular application of 1 Corinthians 14. They are disobeying Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 14 and they need to act on it, and this, according to Mark, is the number one problem in the FBFI. Number one. Men have stated their appreciation of Mark's talk about this problem. Churches that use only the KJV and their leaders deserve separation over their violation of 1 Corinthians 14. Their translation is not sufficiently edifying. If they don't get at least another translation, separation from them should occur. This isn't even a Romans 14 issue. This is not doubtful. It's new, but it's not doubtful. It's not found as an application in historical theology, but it is a separation issue.
I've noticed FBFI type and associated men harping about the idea of fundamentalism and separating over gospel issues. Now what is happening, not just in the FBFI, but I see it now in the gospel coalition, is taking pet issues and turning them into gospel issues. KJVO can be spun into a gospel issue if you stretch out the number of premises. If you have an non-intelligble Bible, men won't understand the gospel, and the KJV is unintelligble, so this is a gospel issue -- so there. At the gospel coalition, it is lack of racial reconciliation shows lack of repentance and repentance is part of the gospel, and so on. You can work it if you want to.
I think that fundamentalists have bigger problems than what Mark says is number one. They have many other issues over which they should separate. They should separate over a false gospel in a consistent way and be clear on the gospel. They should separate over false views of sanctification. They should join me in separating over those. No, the number one issue, as presented by Mark, is the lack of using a sufficiently edifying translation of the Bible.
Separation is according to scripture a church issue. Churches separate, not big parachurch and extra-biblical coalitions like the FBFI. Those have zero authority. It's like the model airplane operators of America talking about separation. No, churches separate for many reasons according to scripture, including the protection of the truth and their church. On this very narrow issue that Mark addresses, our church separates based upon one reason: the biblical doctrine of preservation. We separate over an established, historical, and biblical doctrine of preservation of scripture. Separation started with what the Bible taught and then fleshed out the practice, not in reverse order. You start with what the Bible teaches, studying the Bible, getting your doctrine and practice from the Bible, and then acting accordingly. That's the biblical order. If you don't do it that way, then you're going to separate on whims and on political winds.
Jesus said we're sanctified by the truth, so the truth is where sanctification starts. Sanctification is separation. You separate the biblical from the unbiblical in doctrine and practice. It's how sanctification occurs.
The reversal of the order -- what does the Bible teach and then, second, what have Christians believed through history, before, and I mean, before you get to your position -- is what causes constant new edicts on separation arising from the FBFI. The FBFI has an announcement and now proposes what it shall do about Promise Keepers and hencewith seals in wax what it shall deem an acceptable practice. To know how to practice separation, you subscribe to the latest list of propositions.
Separation should start with what the Bible says. The dividing line is scripture. History should be consulted. You might doubt the doctrine if it's new. A biblical doctrine of preservation causes our church to separate from those who deny the biblical doctrine in at least two ways. There are two different iterations of denial of the perfect preservation of scripture, both in response to naturalism and rationalism. They believe their lying eyes instead of believing what scripture says about itself. In both cases, they can't get past the existence of textual variants in the original language text.
The first iteration is a large swath of KJVO. That's right, I separate from KJVO. Our church will not fellowship with Ruckmanites, English preservationists, men who believe that God either reinspired or preserved His Word in the English. The English to them is the final authority for faith and practice and they correct the Greek original with the English. There are many of these. They don't believe in the biblical doctrine of preservation. They don't believe God preserved His Words in the language in which He inspired them and they were written. They deny that biblical doctrine and they react to that by taking a kind of cultic view of the English Bible. Our church will separate from these people, when we know they are taking this position. I would say this is over half of KJVO and maybe even a larger percentage.
These KJVO don't believe God preserved His Words in the original languages, and so they take a preservation view that depends on twisting certain passages of scripture. For instance, in many cases they take Psalm 12:6-7 and when they say God purified His Words seven times, they believe that this means that apparently the seventh English translation is God's pure Words. That is their "biblical" basis. This is a new interpretation or application and a new doctrine. One might call it tin-foil-hat hermeneutics. These KJVO advocates also do things like take 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and say that "is given by inspiration" is present tense, so it means that God is still inspiring scripture. Ironically, the "is" is in the translation, not in the original languages. They say inspiration didn't stop in the past, but it is ongoing because of the present tense of "is." This is when people have a position and then go to scripture to find a basis for the position.
The second iteration, that includes Mark Ward and those in the FBFI like him, is almost identical to the above KJVO. They deny perfect preservation in the original languages. Before I move on with this point, however, I want to take a moment to support the last statement. They deny preservation in the original languages. Many of them, like the KJVO of the first iteration, will reject that assertion. They would say that they believe that all the words are somewhere in the preponderance of the manuscripts, so they really are "preserved." They just don't know what they are. This is a new position on preservation that doesn't match the biblical and historical doctrine, and yet it is also one that they deny themselves. For instance, I don't know a single critical text person, who believes there is a manuscript available with the correct words of 1 Samuel 13:1 -- any manuscript. They don't, upon a little closer scrutiny, believe their own preponderance of the manuscripts position. The ongoing existence of textual criticism says they don't know what the words are, they don't whether they possess all of them. They don't take a biblical or historical position on the preservation of scripture. They don't start with the Bible to come to their position.
The two iterations of denial of perfect preservation take the same position on preservation, but deal with it in two different ways. The KJVO say that the English is perfection and then go to scripture to conform passages to work for that. The critical text go to scripture to conform passages to fit the existence of textual variants. There was no established biblical position that began or buttressed either iteration of the denial of the preservation of scripture.
Our church separates over unbiblical doctrine and practice. We separate from most KJVO and then critical text deniers of the preservation of scripture. Both iterations doubt God. Both change and twist passages of scripture to support their false doctrine. Separating over the established doctrine is the only way to believe and practice separation in a consistent manner. It's also living by faith, which pleases God.
I can explain how that separating over the biblical doctrine of preservation results in the church preserving scripture, like God intends. God uses the church to keep His Words. What is Mark Ward getting out of his separation? I have hard time understanding it. As I view it, his people won't have to put up with something they don't like. They don't like KJVO, don't like the ramifications of association with it, especially among the cool evangelicals, and this will rid them of that. They have their own sweet little club based on all their pet lists of separating issues. Are they really delivering churches from the monumental issue of non edification due to non intelligibility? No way.
Fundamentalist churches have a bigger problem, which stems from bad hermeneutics proceeding from revivalism, that results in faulty interpretations in much greater ways than the misunderstanding of some KJV words that are out of common usage. Why can't that get into Mark's list of three? Nope. That doesn't make the list. I think it's bad when KJVO types find a text to match their hobby horse. However, if you are someone who relies on the original language to get your interpretation of a text, how is that not going to edify? Can you separate from a man who actually gets the explanation right, or is that not good enough? The separation Mark Ward calls for seems to be another convenient commandeering of separation, a weaponization of separation, for the accomplishment of a particular task.