Monday, June 25, 2018

Certain Unscriptural Positions of Bibliology Worth Separating Over: Considering Mark Ward's Call to Separation at FBFI

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.


Lance Ketchum said...

So, those who only use the KJV will no longer be allowed "membership" in the FBFI? Will those who only use the KJV be removed from the fellowship or be required to sign a disclaimer? Will this now be part of their formal "test of fellowship"?

Terry Basham, II said...

is mark ward a pastor?

Bill Hardecker said...

I wrote a review of Mark's book here: if you wish to read it. Mark and I have decided that there is nothing else to say to each other about the KJV issue since we clash in Bibliology.
FBFI changed their name to help with chaplains (since 9/11, the term fundamental(lists) became a bit more complex and to help them, they voted to change their name to foundation. They still believe and promote themselves to be Fundamentalists. Can we say that FBFI is heir to the populist, anti-perfect preservationist branch of fundamentalism?

Anonymous said...

I do not enjoy reading legal documents. Anyone who has ever purchased a home has had to look through dozens of pages filled with legalese. I wish the lawyers would write mortgages, deeds and the like in language the common man could understand. We wouldn’t need to look up any words. Then we could understand what it was we were signing our name to.

However, on further reflection, I am glad lawyers don’t cater to my whims. If I have a lawyer who is representing my interests, I want him to use all the words he needs. Even if that involves using terms rarely heard in normal conversation. I want him to write that legal document with precision and accuracy. If I have to ask a paralegal the meaning of a few words, or even have to crack open a law dictionary – that’s fine. I don’t want to find out later that due to sloppy wording, or a well-meaning desire for simple, intelligible language that I am committing to something more or less than what I bargained for.

Those, like Mark Ward, who advocate for giving the bus kid a Bible in a language he can understand are minimizing this issue. Do they want to make potentially inaccurate words understandable? Or is it better to define and explain the very words God preserved? Which is more honoring to God? Which is better for the common man?

Chris L

Anonymous said...

After having read Mark Ward's book, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, I think that what he has apparently said at the FBFI meeting is what we could have expected. Absolutely unpersuasive. Totally non-exegetical. Warped.

Full disclosure: I actually am in favor of a minor revision of the KJV that many of us use (the 1769 revision with some changes apparently having been made after that), so I'm not exactly KJVO by some criteria.

I'm baffled that the we-must-separate-from-anyone-who-is-exclusively-pro-KJV position could be seriously considered by any Christian. It is nonsense theology in its premises and conclusions, and the fact that the text issue is something Mr. Ward won't even discuss with pro-TR folks makes me not even want to read what he's writing any more. (I do believe he made some valid points in his book, but I think the book also is as wrongheaded as the new “fundamental” or “foundational thing” he he introduced to the FBFI.

I agree, Bro. Brandenburg, with your analysis of the two positions on Bible texts and translations which you mentioned, which are anti-exegetical: (1) the idea that an English translation (KJV) is what God has preserved is not what the Bible teaches – it teaches perfect preservation of the original words in the original languages; (2) the critical text position is the "gap theory" of popular bibliology: its adherents start with what they allegedly observe in manuscripts and human-recorded history and then go back and try to reconcile it with the Scriptures. I think that most of the conclusions pro-CT folks “know” from textual criticism isn’t even close to knowledge: it’s speculation. I accept an exegetical approach: we must start with what is said in the Bible about itself and then consider how to explain what we think we see in manuscripts and human-recorded history based on what we truly know from the Scriptures.

Thanks for your very good article.

E. T. Chapman

Kent Brandenburg said...

I think there are a lot of interesting issues at stake here:
1) Scriptural teaching on why we separate,
2) How serious is this 1 Corinthians 14 argument,
3) Scriptural bibliology, and
4) The FBFI, fundamentalism, and its views.

Among others.

Is there such a thing as a younger voice that needs to be heard in an organization? Older voices, younger voices. How about competent voices? How does the age of the voice effect whether something is true or not?

KJB1611 said...

In Dr. Ward's posts as an employee of Logos I have read many tiresome statements on the alleged problems with the KJV, but not a single warning about the Watchtower Society's New World Translation, about the Roman Catholic or Seventh Day Adventist base packages his employer, Logos, makes vast amounts of money from, about the false gospel of baptismal regeneration promoted in the Lutheran base packages sold by Logos, etc. Not a word on these damnable heresies--but attacks on the KJV, yes--many of them.

I guess you have to "major on the majors" and separate from people who are KJVO--the KJV is clearly the real danger here.

Jim Camp said...

That is very well put, brother Thomas.

I've noticed among the Xchurch & Fundy crowd that one of the first,
most important, & weightiest issues they castigate is the KJV & anyone
who uses it.
IMO, this is straining gnats while swallowing camels (not that the KJV is
a small issue, but they swallow a lot of error, while hating this one issue)

Kent Brandenburg said...

Everyone who commented here, sorry I didn't post your comments sooner. For some reason, that is beyond me right now, comments were not arriving in my email to moderate, so I didn't know they existed. I had to go to the blogger dashboard to find them, and there they all were, about 15 of them. I published almost all of them, maybe left out three, that were spam or trolls. Thanks for the comments. I thought this whole session at FBFI was very interesting. I wish an actual discussion could occur about separation.

One thing I didn't write about was the very fundamentalist concept of "platform separation." Comments arose over at SharperIron about Mark's post, and there was a discussion about people not having so-and-so speak, and it came across like a quid pro quo, you speak for me and I'll speak for you and if you don't want me, then I don't want you. This is how this type of separation reads. It's not based upon the Bible.