Whither from Here? A Way Forward on the Text and Version Issue

John Vaughn


Our aim for this issue of FrontLine is to inform, refresh, and edify our readers on the doctrine of preservation and to lay a Biblical foundation as we ponder the question, “Whither from here? A way forward on the text and version issue.” Acknowledging that FBFI uses the King James Version as its standard for its meetings and magazine, we remind our readers that we do not prohibit the mention of other translations nor prescribe a particular translation to individuals or churches. Generally, our reasons for using the KJV are practical. For example, it is recognized by all as the Bible whenever it is read or quoted; its noble language is widely used in the traditional hymnody of Fundamental churches; and many preachers, especially those of us over forty, have done their memory work from the KJV and default to it when quoting Scripture. For clarity, it is helpful to have a standard that is well known to all.

Accordingly, the use of any trustworthy translation of the Scriptures is not a matter of separation for FBFI. Our position on the versions is well documented in our resolutions, in the archives of FrontLine, and in scores of recordings from our meetings. Nonetheless, individual members of FBFI are on record as holding dearly to differing positions. Thus, we believe our position is Biblical and balanced. Those who affiliate with FBFI often disagree on the applications of Bible doctrine while agreeing on the doctrines themselves. We do not believe anyone should bind the conscience of another in requiring him to believe something about the Bible that cannot be plainly shown from the Bible.

Thankfully, we have enjoyed a season of relative calm on the textual debate. Some readers will recall that the word “debate” was used along with “controversy” to describe a discussion that was, at times, unbrotherly. But, debate is not inherently unbrotherly. Just as wisdom guides us to be calm, wisdom requires us to teach doctrine and to discuss points of disagreement and uncertainty. In both political and theological documents we find the oft-repeated principle that “every truth must be taught and defended in every generation.” A decade ago, thousands of Bible-believing Christians were listening to a debate in which some debaters were making erroneous claims, such as that “textual criticism” refers to what unbelievers do when they “criticize the Bible,” equating honest study with ridicule—“criticizing” criticism, as it were. As a result, sincere Fundamental Baptists inquired, “Didn’t God write just one Bible?” when defending one translation. Books were written. Pulpits were pounded. Heads were shaken. Sides were taken.

Nevertheless, we must know and be able to articulate the wonderfully encouraging Doctrine of the Preservation of the Word of God and to discuss the historical facts and Biblical statements and principles honestly with Christ-honoring courtesy. Therefore, the compact presentation of relevant material in this issue of FrontLine is now in order. During a controversy, truth-seekers often struggle to keep up with the point and counterpoint of arguments. But now, for the benefit of believers who have not had the opportunity to attend a Bible-believing seminary or whose class notes are long since stored away in boxes, this overview is offered with the intent to inform, refresh, and edify. We welcome brotherly responses but seek no unwarranted separation.

We begin with Kevin Schaal’s helpful reminder on the difference between doctrine and opinion followed by David Shumate’s clear explanation that the doctrine of preservation is “the need of the hour in the Bible-version debate.” Dr. Shumate also provides a survey of the major positions on preservation. Then Dr. Schaal asks and answers the question, “Why are there differences in the versions of the Bible?” John Mincy reviews the history of the making of the King James Version and offers helpful lessons from the preface, “The Translators to the Readers,” of the KJV 1611. Dr. Mincy has written extensively on this subject, and his work is easily found for further study.

In brief, it is our prayer that this discussion will offer some light to guide us on the way forward on the text and version issue.

Tomorrow we will run Dr. Kevin Schaal’s article Remembering the Difference between Doctrine and Preference

John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September/October 2014. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

September/October FrontLine Contents:

Remembering the Difference between Doctrine and Preference
Kevin Schaal

We cannot hold as doctrine something that the Bible does not teach.

The Doctrine of Preservation
David R. Shumate

The debate about texts and translations should be viewed as an opportunity.

Major Positions on Preservation
David Shumate

Why the Differences between Bible Versions?
Kevin Schaal

This is a fair question, but, really, the answer is not a secret.

The Making of the King James Version
John C. Mincy

How did such a great work happen?

Lessons from the Preface, “The Translators to the Reader,” of the KJV 1611
John C. Mincy

The translators expected much opposition to the KJV.

Chaplain Reports: What We at the Home Office Enjoy All the Time
John C. Vaughn

What’s “Fundamental” to “Fundamentalism”?
David C. Innes

At a Glance: The Kingdom of God
Layton Talbert

On Language & Scripture
Mark Lee Ward Jr.

Laying Up Treasures on Earth or in Heaven? (Part 2)
Jerry Sivnksty