Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Does the FBFI Defend the Sole Authority of Scripture?

I thought the FBFI had repudiated KJV-Onlyism. I guess I was wrong.

The lead-off speaker to this year's FBFI Annual Fellowship is Clarence Sexton, president of Crown College and pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The "Statement of Faith" pages of both the college and the church state the following:
The Scriptures
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Bible, “as it is in truth, the Word of God...” (I Thessalonians 2:13). We believe in verbal, plenary inspiration in the original writings, and God's preservation of His pure words to every generation (II Timothy 3:16, Psalms 12:6-8). The Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Received Text of the New Testament (Textus Receptus) are those texts of the original languages we accept and use; the King James Version of the Bible is the only English version we accept and use. The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.
I disagree with the conclusions of these statements that the Masoretic Text and the Received Text are the only texts of the original languages that we "accept and use." I similarly disagree that the KJV is the only English translation we should accept and use. But I disagree most vehemently that these conclusions should be incorporated in a "Statement of Faith." Ironically, these statements of faith are internally contradictory since their final sentence says, "The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice." Although the inescapable implication of these statements is that Sexton does believe the Bible teaches the KJV is the only translation we should accept, I'm having a hard time imagining that he would affirm such an indefensible notion.

Sexton can believe what he wants. I'm sure the statements are legally constituted, and Baptist polity would surely affirm the right of his church to determine what it believes without outside interference or imposition. But I must admit I'm surprised that the FBFI wouldn't see a major problem here. I can't imagine that we squirrelly bloggers do more investigation than the people doing the inviting. But I likewise can't imagine that the thoughtful leaders within the FBFI would not recognize the obvious problems with Sexton's implicit (at the very least) claims that the Bible affirms his conclusions on texts and translations.

So I have no idea what dynamics led the FBFI to extend a keynote invitation to Sexton, just as I have no idea what dynamics have led other fundamentalist institutions to continue to extend speaking invitations to other leaders of institutions that propagate KJVO theology. But as a first-hand witness of some of the back-room fundamentalist machinations over conference speakers from outside the traditionally accepted parameters of the movement, I'll have to admit that the kind of toleration the FBFI has demonstrated for those within the traditional parameters doesn't get any less frustrating as I get older.

Here's hoping better days are ahead.

49 comments:

Michael C. said...

I'll have to admit that the kind of toleration the FBFI has demonstrated for those within the traditional parameters doesn't get any less frustrating as I get older.

So do you think Sexton is getting a good ol' boys pass from the FBFI? I'm no more pleased with Sexton's KJV-onlyism than you are, but I interpreted the news differently. To me it looked like the FBFI was seeking to reach beyond its usual circle of speakers and schools (typically AACC&S affiliated) with this invitation. I took it as a show of magnanimity, not something masterminded in a smoke-filled room somewhere.

Either way, Sexton's stance on the KJV should be considered. I don't know enough of Sexton's ministry to know how he applies the views laid out in the statement of faith as well as if this is a central emphasis of the ministries he leads.

Greg Linscott said...

Ben,

Would you object if this statement on the Masoretic, TR, and KJV were articulated in an official policy rather than in the doctrinal statement?

Don Johnson said...

Hey Ben,

For myself, I have no problem fellowshipping with men who hold KJO positions. The version issue is not a matter of separation for me (for some KJOs, it is, but not for all).

I do have a problem with those non-KJOs who want to make THEIR take on the version issue a fundamental of the faith and a case for separation. Such a position is just as wrong as the militant KJO side. The logic and scriptural foundations are the same. (i.e., zero).

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

Michael,

I think I'm going to have to stick to what I wrote. I can't guess at the dynamics, but your suggestion is one plausible option. The issue here isn't a "good ol' boys" kind of thing. It's the fact that movement fundamentalism, for all its lip service to the fact that we need to "separate from the right as well as from the left," always seems to show magnanimity toward (and thereby minimize) the obvious doctrinal aberrations of the "right."*

At some point, thoughtful fundamentalists have to say, "Fool me twice, shame on me." By that I don't mean people like Bauder, who spoke at the conference but (as I understand) is not a member. Rather, I mean that the membership needs to take doctrinal statements seriously and by their choices make it clear that doctrinal error of this magnitude will not be encouraged.

In other words, I don't see cutting the legs out from beneath the sole authority of Scripture as a secondary or tertiary issue.

*As I've pointed out before, I do believe there are folks outside the traditional parameters of the fundamentalist movement who are "out-fundamentalling" fundamentalists on the essentials.

Ben said...

Greg,

Personally, I would not object if it were merely a policy of using only the KJV. I'd argue that it's a bad policy, but I certainly wouldn't see it as sin or doctrinal error.

I do think that the statement about "accepting" only the KJV and its supporting manuscripts is substantially problematic in itself since I can't imagine what it means other than that other texts and translations are not recognized as God's Word. But clearly that error would not be as great as what we see in the statement as it is--framed in the context of a statement of faith and immediately followed by the suggestion that this statement is defensible from Scripture.

Ben said...

Don,

Just so we know what we're talking about here, as I explained in my answer to Greg above, I see a massive difference between using only the KJV (as lots of churches and institutions do) and teaching that the KJV is the only acceptable English translation (as the institutions connected with Sexton do). That, in my understanding, is the vernacular difference between "only-KJV" and "KJV Only."

Is that what you're referring to?

William D said...

"the King James Version of the Bible is the only English version we accept and use. The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice." - Crown College

That statement is different than:

"For reasons of textual reliability, we believe that God has preserved His Word for the English speaking people in the King James Version of the Bible."
- West Coast Baptist college

To say that you only accept and use a certain version is not to say that God has somehow preserved His Word in one version per language and in English it is the KJV only.

Maybe Sexton is moving away from the Hyles weirdos and moving closer to the FBF fundies! Praise the Lord!!

William D said...

Just the fact that Sexton is preaching on a platform with other non-KJVO guys is an abomination and comprimise worthy of church discipline and separation in his circle of fundyism! He's really sticking his neck out to preach at this conference....I'm not disappointed about it, I think he's moving in the right direction!!

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben

You said to Greg: "I do think that the statement about 'accepting' only the KJV and its supporting manuscripts is substantially problematic in itself since I can't imagine what it means other than that other texts and translations are not recognized as God's Word."

Would you say the Jehovah's Witness Bible is God's Word? Would you 'accept' it? I think that I would say that it is a corrupted form of God's Word. As such, I could (if necessary) preach the Gospel from it, and I have done so to Jehovah's Witnesses particularly. But do I accept it? No.

Would you say that Good News for Modern Man is God's Word? Would you 'accept' it? Again, I would say that it is a corrupted form and I wouldn't accept it. I would find it of course much less problematic than the JW version.

The basic argument over the versions between people who accept the statement that the Bible is the sole authority is based on presuppositions both ways. The presuppositions are unprovable (although I happen to think that one set is more reasonable than the other set). The argument is not over the doctrine of inspiration or any other fundamental doctrine. [That is, unless you think perfect preservation is a fundamental doctrine.] As such, I think that good men can differ and sincerely hold that the MT and TR are God's means of preserving the Word while at the same time fellowshipping with men who differ.

So when I say KJO, I mean men who aren't just 'only KJV', but men who are KJV only... I fellowship freely with such men who are willing to fellowship with me. Obviously we have strong disagreements in certain areas, but life is too short to make this a separation issue. That's my view, anyway.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

William,

I'm not grasping a substantial difference between the two statements, but you may well be more familiar with the jargon of that world than I am. One important difference, however, is that WCBC does not imply (at least in the portion you've quoted) that their convictions on the KJV are grounded in Scripture. In other words, I think that it's a more grievous error to assert that the Bible says something it doesn't remotely say than to believe the thing without any good reason for doing so.

By the way, if you're a WCBC alum or former student, could you e-mail me offline? I have a question for you.

On your second point, it's interesting to hear your perspective on how Sexton's participation in this conference might not be well-received in KJVO circles. But then John Goetsch from WCBC speaks in FBF kinds of circles fairly regularly. Any thoughts on how this is different?

But my point isn't nearly as much about Sexton as it is about the FBFI. Again, my point is that the FBFI reveals its true colors when it overlooks real, verifiable doctrinal errors on the right and maintains its rigid separation from everyone it doesn't agree with on every application of separation and other matters on what it would view as "the left."

Ben said...

Don,

Unless I'm missing your argument, I don't think your point about the NWT is germane. First, Sexton is picking one translation and disallowing all others, not specifically rejecting one. Second, I've never heard of anyone adopting a ministry policy (or incorporating in a statement of faith) a specific repudiation of one translation. Perhaps there are circumstances in which that would be necessary.

For what it's worth, the presuppositions of the KJVO crowd are demonstrably unsupported by Scripture, and trying to argue to the contrary is a significant theological error. Fortunately, I don't believe the kind of doctrine of separation that would require me to separate from you over your non-separation from them.

Bob Bixby said...

Ben,

I'm glad you commented on this.

Bob

Frank Sansone said...

Ben,

I am still thinking about your larger point, but I think you are reading things into this statement that are not intended.

You have made a couple comments regarding Sexton/Crown believing "their convictions on the KJV are grounded in Scripture."

You have made this conclusion, apparently, from the fact that they mention their acceptance of the KJV before they give the standard - "The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice."

You are connecting these statements because you want to make a point - and that is your right, but I hardly think that these statements are intended to be joined together to make the point that you are making - and I am pretty sure you are smart enough to know that.

If Crown/Sexton does actually teach that the Bible teaches their conclusions on transalations, reference those teachings instead of taking these statements and trying to make them say what they were not intended to say. Neither you or I would appreciate someone doing that to us.

If Crown/Sexton really does teach that the Bible teaches a KJV Only position, there should be plenty of evidence to that effect that you could use (and as far I know, they may indeed teach this) without trying to make this statement say what it was not intending to say.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Ben said...

Frank,

As I wrote in the original post, "Although the inescapable implication of these statements is that Sexton does believe the Bible teaches the KJV is the only translation we should accept, I'm having a hard time imagining that he would affirm such an indefensible notion."

So I agree with you in that I doubt Sexton actually believes what the statement of faith says, despite the fact that I've seen video of another KVJO, Jack Schaap, affirm precisely what the Crown/Temple BC statement says. But that doesn't abrogate the logic of the statement, which is:

1) This IS a "statement of faith."
2) This statement of faith DOES affirm certain things about the texts and translations that are and are not accepted and used (which I must assume is relevant to "faith and practice").
3) This statement of faith immediately thereafter affirms that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice.
4) Therefore, since Crown and Temple believe and practice certain things about texts and translations, the conclusion is inescapable from their words that they believe the Bible actually teaches these things.

That's the trouble with statements of faith. Words have to mean what they say. Don't we Baptists and Presbyterians have some experience with what happens when you start allowing some wiggle room between what statements of faith mean and what they actually say?

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben

I've been away all day, so just now getting to replying.

My second post is interacting with your comments and attempting to point out something problematic with what you posted. I may be getting a bit off topic with it, so I'll drop it after this.

You said: "I do think that the statement about 'accepting' only the KJV and its supporting manuscripts is substantially problematic in itself since I can't imagine what it means other than that other texts and translations are not recognized as God's Word."

I was attempting to point out that you may be assuming too much when you say "I can't imagine what it means other than..." I am not sure how successfully I made the point with what I said. I guess it isn't really germane to the subject at hand, anyway.

You made a point about KJO presuppositions not being supported by scripture. All presuppositions are unsupported by Scripture, including the eclectic text presuppositions. That's the nature of presuppositions.

Your point is that the FBF is in error by fellowshipping with a KJO type of fellow. You use the word doctrinal errors... That's where I disagree. I don't think the KJO guys are making fundamental doctrinal errors. They believe in verbal plenary inspiration. They believe in divine preservation. Don't you? Where we differ is in conclusions about how God accomplished those works, not that he did those works. I am happy to support men who believe in inspiration.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Chip Van Emmerik said...

I had exactly the same thoughts when I saw the schedule of speakers. Unfortunately, Pastor Sexton was not the only name that caught my eye. I recently contacted the church of another speaker, Pastor Rick Arrowwood. I did not speak directly to Pastor Arrowwood, but I did get to talk to his wife after she answered the church phone. After reading the church's doctrinal statement, I was seeking some clarification on the translations question. I was informed that they would never recommend a church that did not use the KJV.

In my mind, that is exactly the difference between a KJV-only position and a KJV-preferred position. In my mind, the KJVO position meets the threshhold of heresey - a choosing, choice; then that whichis chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects (Vines, p. 303)

I have no problem with a KJV preferred position. Godly men can disagree about the best translation to use. I have a serious problem with the KJVO position. Pastor Arrowwood's, and apparently Pastor Sexton's, position condemns those who use other versions and separates from them rather than simply disagreeing. I do not see how this is different than the position taken by West Coast, Hyles, Pensacola, etc.

As others have said, I am very concerned with warm reception given to those on the "right" while those on the "left" are roundly condemned. It seems to me that any differences I might have with John MacArthur pale in comparison to the difference I have with the ministries mentioned above. One largely accepts the fundamentalist position but refuses the title while the other claims the title but rejects the most basic premise of the fundamentalist position - the sole Authority of Scripture (by that I mean man's reason has superceeded Scripture's authority in the translation issue as well as often coming out in other areas - dare we mention pants on women).

I too see what seems to be a discrepancy within FBFI's statements and actions. I am not currently a member of FBFI, but I have been in the past, and I have continued to identify myself with this "branch" of fundamentalism. I have been greatly blessed by many of its leaders and look forward to many more years of fellowship with the men and ministries which ascribe to its stated positions. I only wish to see us take care as we strive for consistancy in our application of Scriptural principles.

JimD said...

Brothers. There are good people regarding this issue that agree to disagree and to not be divisive over this and other issues. There are men in leadership in the FBF that hold to different stands regarding the issue on this blog. Just check out each board member and the church or school they represent and you will see what I mean. I think that is a good testimony to the fact that some despite differences on some issues are not allowing these issues to become greater than what they are supposed to be and take a place that is reserved for Christ the head of the of the church and I am speaking to His preeminence.
I went to only one day of this years conference (Thursday) but the Preaching, Music, Fellowship was Christ centered and truly a blessing. There were many ministry displays represented which were a blessing to see. Burge Terrace Baptist church did a great job in hosting the conference. The above thoughts are only my personal observations.

Ben said...

Don,

I think the key to advancing our conversation is the recognition that making something up out of thin air with no biblical support and putting it in your doctrinal statement is, in fact, doctrinal error, even if what you're making up is not in direct opposition to the teaching of Scripture.

In other words, if I say in my doctrinal statement that interracial marriage is sin or that Jesus had white skin, you may not be able to find texts that prove I'm wrong, but you certainly won't find texts that validate what I'm claiming to be doctrine. So when I claim something is doctrine that is not biblical doctrine, and I claim that the Bible is my only rule for faith and practice, then I am absolutely teaching doctrinal error by making the Bible say something it surely does not say.

Ben said...

Chip,

Well said.

Jim,

Just to clarify, the issue is not whether these are good or sincere or godly men. The issues is 1) whether doctrine and doctrinal statements matter and 2) why some doctrinal errors are so widely tolerated within fundamentalism, which is frequently said to be "the authentic expression of biblical Christianity in the world today."

There is a myriad of matters of faith and practice of far less significance than bibliology over which fundamentalists have boisterously drawn lines over the years. It seems a bit arbitrary to tag this one as a matter of indifference.

Todd Wood said...

No, we shouldn't be indifferent on the issue.

And Ben, I think many in the FBF are not. Some are highly vocal on the issue. Just look at some of the books by FBF men.

So I am surprised that Clarence would come speak in the conference. This is good. The preacher boys of Crown need to be exposed to the FBF. There needs to be the ongoing communication.

Just like Bauder needs to go speak in a Shepherd's Conference. Just like Frank Hamrick needs to go speak in a West Coast Baptist Conference.

James Kime said...

After reading your post Ben, I wonder why the FBF would choose a KJVO speaker. Is it the intention of the FBF to communicate that it is ignorant of the translational issues?

This is just bizarre.

Once again we see that a person(s) view of separation trumps biblical theology. In the same "Fellowship", you can have KJVO (which is doctrinal error) and nonKJVO.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben,

I certainly agree that there are doctrinal errors in the KJO position. I agree that the statements contained in many doctrinal statements cannot be substantiated by Scripture (though not necessarily disproven by Scripture). But...

Are you suggesting along with one of your commenters here that the KJO error = heresy?

Would you object to a similar statement that claimed inerrancy only for the original autographs? Can you prove the "only" from Scripture?

I just don't think you can make the leap from this particular error in a doctrinal statement to "false teacher", thus calling for separation.

The inclusion of Sexton in the FBF meeting is a good development, I hope that the relationship is strengthened and continues.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

Todd,

Are you suggesting that sharing pulpits with folks whose doctrinal statements contain substantial bibliological error is the wisest way to broaden the membership base? As I said in my original post, I'm not suggesting this is the FBFI's motivation for this decision. But you are at the very least suggesting it's a profitable outcome. If that's the price that must be paid for broader influence, think folks who care about sound doctrine are getting the bad end of the bargain.

James,

I'm sure that's not the intent.

Don,

To answer your questions . . .

1. My understanding of heresy is aberrant doctrine that causes division. Do you think KJVO doctrine is aberrant and divisive? Is it true to say that the KJV is the only translation we should accept? Does saying that the KJV is the only acceptable translation create a division between churches that use it and churches that don't?

2. If a doctrinal statement suggested that Scripture teaches that ONLY the autographs are inspired, that would be an error. Of course, such a statement would only be necessary because some people teach other texts and translations are themselves inerrant. But nevertheless, it would be an inaccurate assertion and should be changed since one error does not validate another.

Sadly, I think some of the comments here reflect the all-too-common sentiment that the relationships within the movement are more important than the faith for which we stand. But at least the past hundred years of church history is littered with people who believed the right things personally but were unwilling to stand for them against false teaching. I hope that the fundamentalist movement is not now choosing the same path as the peace-loving denominational conservatives it so despised in decades past.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben

The word heresy in modern usage refers to a "defection from a dominant belief or ideology" [Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus], or "false doctrine, or teaching that denies one of the foundational beliefs of the church, such as the Lordship or deity of Jesus" [Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary].

There are many things that are divisive in the church. Calvinism for example is divisive - and some would say it is aberrant. Would that make it a heresy? Various views of music styles are divisive, perhaps aberrant. Are these heresies?

Yes, divisions are caused by various permutations of the KJO position. The fact that divisions persist are not by themselves an indication of heresy.

Ben, for your argument to stand, you will have to demonstrate that a KJO like Sexton is denying a fundamental doctrine, in this case, inspiration and its attendant doctrines of inerrancy. You haven't demonstrated that. The last thing you can accuse men like this of is a low view of Scripture. The 'historic fundamentalists' you and others champion would think it quite odd to fight with someone who believed every word of the Bible is the Word of God.

Regards
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RC said...

Ben,

Good post. I think that many of the subsequent comments reflect that people aren't getting the distinction you are making. But that is not too suprising.

I think, however, that Sexton and many other KJVO's would appeal to certain scriptures to defend their position (i.e., Psalm 12:6; Matthew 5:18; etc.) I don't think that the passages come anywhere close to teaching this, but to them they do. So while to you and me, the doctrinal statement seems inherently contradictory and reflects a serious error, to them they would believe that what they put in that statement was drawn directly from the Bible.

I have personally been very discouraged by the choice to have him speak (open the confrence no less) and have mixed feelings about the FBF for this reason (and a few others). I don't think that we as a movement should be "magnanimous" towards those that openly embrace heretical positions on the scriptures. I don't view this in any way as a good think for the FBF or broader movement.

I am curious about your thoughts about Dr. Bauder speaking on the same platform as Dr. Sexton. Typically fundamentalists have viewed this as some level of approval. If Sexton's position is as bad as you are suggesting (and I am inclined to agree) then I would think that Bauder would not want to share the platform with him either. (please note: I am not condemning him, I still am wrestling through my thoughts on this issue).

It did seem a little ironic to have Bauder the author of Only One Bible and Sexton speaking at the same confrence. Obviously the FBF is working hard to make sure this stays a non-issue to them. And I wonder if that in the long run this won't come back to haunt them.

-Ryan C.

Andy Efting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Efting said...

Ben,

After reading that doctrinal statement, I think we need more information before we can go calling Sexton’s position heretical. First of all, the method of preservation and the method of textual criticism are not defined in the Scriptures and so we should not expect every Christ-honoring church or school to come to the same conclusion on these issues. Sexton is within his right to say that for his church, they are going to go by the traditional texts of the Old and New Testaments. There is nothing heretical with coming to that conclusion, even if I disagree with it (and I do). The same goes with translations. They can accept and use as their official version any conservative translation they choose, and they can be upfront about it and put it in their doctrinal statement. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m sure they have a Bible reason for why they are making these choices and I think we can and ought to give room to people who differ with us on these issues.

The problem comes, IMO, in how people react to others who make different choices regarding texts and translations. If they are militant in condemning others who differ from them or if they treat those people as disobedient breather, THEN I have a problem with what they are doing. If they advocate non-orthodox views of inspiration (such as double inspiration or English correcting the Greek), then I have a problem with their position, and would not be able to fellowship with them.

I don’t know anything about Clarence Sexton or Crown College, so I don’t know if they are strongly KJV-preferred or militant KJVO. There is a difference.

I also don’t know where they stand in regard to the SoTL or the Hyles wing of fundamentalism. My suspicion is that they have not really separated themselves from the errors of those groups (not that the BJ-wing has either, unfortunately), but that is where my chief concerns would lie.

It would be nice to hear from the FBF leadership to know why they invited certain speakers, rather than for us in the pew to just guess.

Todd Wood said...

Ben, I am not at all interested in a membership base.

Frank Sansone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Sansone said...

Would you accept the following as part of a doctrinal statement:

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried. When we refer to the Bible, we are indicating the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament that are generally understood as the Protestant Canon. We reject the books of the Apocrypha. The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.

Frank

Andy Efting said...

Frank,

I would quibble with the first part because I believe that we should be precise when we speak of these things and the Bible says that Scripture was breathed out (inspired) by God, not the penmen. The penmen were moved or borne along by the Holy Spirit and thereby produced the God-breathed Scriptures.

But why do I feel like this is a trick question?

Ben said...

Frank,

I think you raise an excellent question [without actually articulating it, of course ;-) ]. I presume you are referring to the fact that the statement from which you quote defines the parameters of the canon and also refers to the Bible as the sole authority of faith and practice, when the Bible obviously does not definitively define its own parameters

Now, I have no idea where you've found this particular statement. I do know that the Westminster Confession of Faith does include a similar definition of the canon, but it doesn't contain the "only rule of faith and practice" formula, and actually nuances the matter quite well, I think. The LBC and the NHBC don't speak to the parameters of the canon.

So I'm inclined to say that the statement you've quoted is deficient. But perhaps someone else is capable of making a better argument than I could compose as to how Scripture can be our sole authority for the recognition of its own parameters. That seems like circular reasoning to me, and it also seems like a rather difficult case to make.

Of course, that admission puts both of us in the difficult position of having to answer what is our authority for the canon if it is not Scripture. I could take a stab, but I don't really want to open that can of worms.

I'm glad you brought this up. Someone else raised the same question to me in an off-line conversation, but I don't have any slick answers to propose. There's no doubt that the canon is a difficult issue, and one we might want to wrestle with a bit more in light of the continuing rise of pluralistic religion in America.

In any case, I do think the canon is a far more complex issue than whether or not God has authorized just one translation for the English language, so I'm inclined to grant a smidgen more charity to those who would include a definition of the canon in their statement of faith. You might call that inconsistent, but I think we're talking about apples and oranges to some degree, particularly if someone is capable of mounting a reasonable case for biblical authority for the definition of the canon.

Ben said...

Don,

Several things here. Just to get one out of the way quickly, is musical style a doctrine? Second, I'm using what I understand to be the historical definition of heresy that arises from biblical terms, not the modern vernacular definition. But these things are probably not worth arguing over.

Third, I think it's quite plausible to argue that KJVOism has both a low view of Scripture and a high view of man.

But my main response to your comments should probably focus on the fact that I don't necessarily agree with your connection between fundamental doctrine and heresy. Are you saying that one can only be a heretic on matters that are essential for salvation? If so, would you explain your case for that connection? This may be my own ignorance in action. It may be that everyone knows this and I just missed it.

Finally, my problem with someone claiming Calvinism is heresy surely wouldn't be grounded in the fact that it's not a fundamental doctrine. The reality of the matter is that Baptists in the 18th and 19th century commonly separated over Calvinistic soteriology, and I'm not talking about unconditional election or depravity. They excoriated the 4-pointers. Spurgeon called Arminianism heresy. This book might also be an interesting read.

Frank Sansone said...

Andy,

You are not allowed to play on this question :). Ben may recognize the majority of the statement (including the part that you don't like).

I am trying to get a better read on the nature of his complaint, especially in light of the fact that he has admitted that he is "having a hard time imagining that he would affirm such an indefensible notion" and that he has made the charges he has made due to the juxtaposition of the two statements.

My point in my "trick question" is if Ben is consistent, then he must have a problem with my revision of CHBC's doctrinal statement (the part you would 'quibble' with) to include the specifics regarding the 66 books and the apocryphra and the addition of the statment that he is hanging Crown/Sexton with - "The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice."

Ben has basically indicated that because Crown/Sexton included their view of the translation issue in their doctrinal statement and that they included the phrase regarding the Bible being the sole authority, that this indicates that they are claiming that the Bible teaches their view of translations.

My point is that he is twisting what is written to make it a bigger issue than it is - at least from the doctrinal statement.

The translation issue is a clarification of where they stand on a controversial issue of the day and fits within the context of that section of the doctrinal statement. The "sole authority" is a general statement (and a fairly common one at that).

Because he does not agree with their translation philosophy, he wants to take this "sole authority" statement and try to apply it to the translations and claim that they are claiming that the Bible teaches their view of the translations - even though he has indicated that he does not believe this is what they were intending to say.

However, I doubt that he would get on someone for wrongly claiming that the Bible teaches which 66 books make up the Canon if that were the included statement of clarification instead. I would asume that he would instead understand that statement to be a helpful clarification regarding what the church believes and practices.

When Crown makes the clarifying comment and still includes the "sole authority" line, this is turned into the idea that this combination of statements says that Crown uses (twists) the Bible to prove a KJVO position - and that this is heresy and that the FBFI needs to do better, etc.

Now, I am not sure if I agree with Sexton appearance at the FBFI and I am not positive that Crown/Sexton does not teach that the Bible teaches their particular view of the translation issue. (I don't know enough about Crown either way.) I am pretty sure, however, that if a strict Fundamentalist were doing like Ben has done here in making a statement say what it is clearly not intending to say in order to make a point, that the YFs would be all over them with charges of 'nit-picking' and ungraciousness and divisiveness and I am not sure how this deserves a pass.

Frank

Ben said...

Frank,

Looks like our posts crossed in cyberspace. Must I was a bit confused at first since I spent 5 minutes trying to find where CHBC's statement of faith says anything about the canon before I grasped that you had edited that part in as you baited a trap for me. ;-)

So I'm not backing down from my assertion that the Crown/Temple statements of faith are seriously flawed on several levels, and I do think my position is consistent.

I also don't think it's completely inconceivable that someone would try to claim biblical authority for their specific translation choice. It happens all the time in the KJV literature. I've seen the video of it on a Hyles-Anderson promo video. Obviously, the arguments are at best sleight-of-hand and at wors ridiculous, but that doesn't mean they're not twisting the Bible. In fact it's a bit ironic that I'm the one being accused of twisting things when Crown/Temple are the ones who have included particular text and translation convictions in a statement of faith. Isn't your doctrine supposed to be something you can actually defend, not simply a matter of preference or indifference?

P.S. Nice try. And I really do mean that in all good humor!

Ben said...

One more thing. Regardless of whether you like the case I've laid out, does anybody want to step across the line and affirm unequivocally that the FBFI has not exercised really bad judgment in making a KJVO the leadoff keynote at an annual conference? Is that the kind of example that should be held up before the nation's pastors?

Don? Frank? Todd? JimD? Anybody?

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben

You asked: "Are you saying that one can only be a heretic on matters that are essential for salvation?"

I think that's a pretty good question. One of the points I have heard repeatedly is that the 'historic fundamentalists' only made the fundamentals the basis of contention/separation. I can't remember if you are one of those making such a claim, but it is in the back of my mind in carrying on this discussion.

I would say that heresy only has to do with the fundamental doctrines which to me include some things not essential for salvation. What I mean by that is that a fully orthodox view of inspiration isn't essential for salvation. There are many evangelicals who deny inerrancy, but whom I believe from their testimony [verbal and non-verbal] to be genuine believers in Christ.

But it is heresy to deny that God breathed out the Scriptures. The liberal view that the Bible is only a human book is heresy. The Neo-Orthodox view that the Bible is 'inspired' when it speaks to me, or is a 'spiritual book' that doesn't necessarily need to be true is heresy.

The question we are discussing with respect to the KJO position is: "is it" or "is it ain't" heresy? My view of it is that other than Ruckmanite type perversions as Andy listed, the KJO view is merely one interpretation of the data among others. It cannot be proved directly by Scripture and I don't think that it can be completely disproved by Scripture either, although some of the claims made for it can be shown to be incorrect.

Anyway, I find all this worthy of discussion and I do appreciate you bringing it up. I may do a post of my own over at my site later tonight.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

PS, just saw your last post. I thought I had made my view clear earlier, but I applaud the FBFs inclusion of Sexton. I am glad to see it. We really need the fight about the versions to be over. I hope that this is a sign of positive developments to come.

RC said...

Ben,

Not sure if you missed my post earlier. I understand that it is tough to have a conversation with many different people. I pointed out that I think that they would argue that their view is based in the scriptures. But you have dealt somewhat with that in subsequent posts. I also asked a question that you have not answered, I assume you missed it, but I will ask it again.

I would agree that the FBFI made a poor judgment in inviting him to speak. But would we not then have to say that to some extent Bauder made a similarly poor choice to share the platform with Sexton? What are your thoughts on Dr. Bauder (whom I greatly respect) speaking at a conference where a keynote speaker is a lead voice in the KJVO movement?

-Ryan C

Frank Sansone said...

Ben,

First of all, I am glad you did not take my comments as harsh as they may have come across. I think you know I meant no hostility towards you, but re-reading it I can see where it came across a little harsh. Sorry about that.

I almost missed your response where you actually answered my question in the midst of all the other posts.

I have a feeling that I must not be getting my point across clearly or I am completely missing your response to my point - maybe it is this working night shifts that is getting to me :).

Obviously you picked up somewhat on the point I was trying to get to with my question. If a statement of faith could legitimately include a clarification regarding the canon and still include a "sole authority" clause, then including a clarifying statement about translations/texts would also seem to be appropriate.

Now, can you make the case that it would be technically inaccurate to include the clarifying phrase regarding the canon? Sure, because - as you indicated - this case can not be made strictly from Scripture. However, to not have that clarifying statement in a situation where there is confusion about the matter (such as if you serve in a place where the "Bible" is understood by default to include the Apocrypha) leaving out such a clarification may actually lead people to believe that you believe significantly different than you truly believe.

I guess in a way, the real problem you have is with the expression that the Bible is our "sole authority" since many things we hold to also involve additional research, reasoning, etc. (But, I think this would get us on to another topic that you have touched on a number of times before :).

You commented that "I also don't think it's completely inconceivable that someone would try to claim biblical authority for their specific translation choice. It happens all the time in the KJV literature. I've seen the video of it on a Hyles-Anderson promo video. Obviously, the arguments are at best sleight-of-hand and at worst ridiculous, but that doesn't mean they're not twisting the Bible.

I agree with you on this. I am not saying that this done happen. I am not even saying it does not happen a lot. I am suggesting that this is not what Crown has done in their doctrinal statement - if one reads it as intended with the same charity and reasonableness that we would all like others to read our words.

You also comment that "In fact it's a bit ironic that I'm the one being accused of twisting things when Crown/Temple are the ones who have included particular text and translation convictions in a statement of faith. Isn't your doctrine supposed to be something you can actually defend, not simply a matter of preference or indifference?

I have three comments regarding this statement. (I would say "quick comments", but we all know better, don't we?)

1. I don't think it is unreasonable to include a statement regarding versions/translations in a church's doctrinal statement. In fact, our church has such a statement (We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament in the original Hebrew and Greek texts to be the verbally and plenary inspired Word of God. The Scriptures are inerrant, infallible and God-breathed, and therefore are the final authority for faith and life. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament are the complete and divine revelation of God to Man. The Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning. Though we do not take the KJV only position, we do use the KJV in our preaching, teaching, and personal work and believe that God has preserved for us in it an accurate and reliable English translation (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).)

Now, I did not write the doctrinal statement, I inherited it, but I think it is acceptable to explain our position. I guess if someone wanted to attack me/us they could take the fact that the verses for the whole section are listed after the comment about the KJV and say that we were saying those verses teach that God has preserved His Word in the KJV. It is not what is intended by what is written, but I am sure that this would not stop someone from making the argument. In a way this is what I feel that is going on with Crown/Temples statement.

2. Are not all doctrinal statements that include the phrase "in the original autographs" in their statements on inspiration including "particular text and translation convictions in a statement of faith"? Now, you and I would both agree with those text convictions, but it is still putting text convictions in the statement of faith.

3. I would imagine that most reasoned TR or Majority Text guys would respond to your question: "Isn't your doctrine supposed to be something you can actually defend, not simply a matter of preference or indifference?" with the answer that they can defend their position - see some of JG's work on this on SI, for instance.

As for your question regarding the FBFI's judgment on this, I would probably not have made the same choice knowing only what I know. However, I don't know if there is more going on or not - and besides, I am still trying to figure out how I am going to deal with a similar choice that I feel was unwise in a situation that is much closer to home for me.

Finally, do we know if Crown/Temple actually does the same thing as HAC, etc. regarding twisting Scripture to support the position? I still do not know enough about C/T to know. I don't feel that a correct reading of their doctrinal statement answers that question, but if someone actually knows what they teach in this area I would be interested in knowing.

In Christ,

Frank

MKill said...

Fellows,
I may have a little better perspective on Crown/Temple/Dr. Sexton's view on the King James Version issue. I am an alumnus of the school. I attended Crown College and Temple Baptist Church for four years, graduating in 2004.

First of all, I don't want to give you the idea that I am speaking for Dr. Sexton on this issue. I am merely relating my experience and observations on the matter.

TBC and Crown only use the King James Version of the Bible in the pulpit and classrooms. Dr. Sexton encourages a TR/Majority text stance and encourages the students to use the KJV in their ministries. However, he DOES NOT propagate the idea of double inspiration, nor does he endorse Ruckmanism. In fact, we were taught of the ludicrousness of such an idea. The school offers classes in biblical languages and often uses textbooks that use other versions of the Bible in them.

Dr. Sexton is not the type of person who punts NIVs across the stage or burns NASBs. In fact, he does everything in his power to stay out of the Bible version fray. IMO, he knows there other battles for him to fight.

What I find ironic is that while you are questioning the FBFI for including him as a speaker, I can only imagine the garbage he is getting from folks on the other side about preaching at the FBFI meeting. Frankly, I don't think he cares any more!

Anyway, in summary, Crown, Temple Baptist, and Dr. Sexton only use the King James Version of the Bible, but, IMHO, they would not kill anyone over this issue. ;)

Ben said...

Guys,

I appreciate the ongoing conversation and hope to return to it some tomorrow, but I have responsibilities that may keep me away.

Let me just say briefly in response to RC that Dr. Bauder has in recent years spoken at Beeson Seminary, Geneva Reformed Seminary, and now at an FBFI meeting. I'm completely confident that in each instance he said things that were true, helpful, and needed to be heard. I'm thrilled that he took each of those opportunities. I don't think that speaking in those events constitutes any sort of endorsement of any other speakers or the institutions themselves, apart from anything that he may have said. (Ironically, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he found the most common ground with the non-Baptists, but that's strictly my speculation.)

Bauder took public criticism over Beeson, and I'm personally embarrassed at some of the response to his address at Geneva's commencement. I would urge those who don't appreciate Dr. Sexton's doctrine or the FBFI's direction to allow Dr. Bauder to exert as much influence and inject as much clear thought as he has opportunity to do. In fact, if the Vatican or the World Council of Churches extended him the opportunity to speak to them tomorrow, I hope he'd take it and preach truth that they need to hear.

Frank,

You've said many things that I'll try to return to later. You did send me to wondering how an institution that really does say the Bible teaches we should use the KJV would construct their doctrinal statement. So this is the Hyles-Anderson College statement on the Scriptures:

"We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible. The Old and New Testament are definitely inspired word for word. We accept the Textus Receptus manuscripts from which came the King James Bible. The Scripture is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice."

Less detail. More imprecise (I'm assuming they do accept some manuscripts of the OT). But are there not some striking similarities?

MKill,

Thanks for your perspective, but I have not accused Sexton or anyone else at Temple/Crown of doing the things you've said they don't do. I would be thrilled to know that he doesn't care about attacks from other KJVOs.

Anonymous said...

I am a born-again lay person who attended the opening meeting of the FBFI. Dr. Sexton's sermon on Passionate Vision was excellent. There was nothing heretical about it. In fact, it was a needed message not only for pastors but for our churches. Some Christian charity is called for among people who hold differening views about Bible translations. Have your opinions... I have mine; however, to say I will not fellowship with someone who do or do not have a KJVO philosophy seems to go against the very spirit of Paul's letter where He talks to the factions of the church saying, "I'm of Paul, I'm of Appollos, I'm of Christ." Their fight was over a particular leader... our's is over a particular Bible. I'm in no way advocating ecumenticalism. But we are not talking about churches that are joining with others that are wishy-washy on the doctrine of salvation and matters of faith and practice.

RC said...

Bauder took public criticism over Beeson, and I'm personally embarrassed at some of the response to his address at Geneva's commencement. I would urge those who don't appreciate Dr. Sexton's doctrine or the FBFI's direction to allow Dr. Bauder to exert as much influence and inject as much clear thought as he has opportunity to do. In fact, if the Vatican or the World Council of Churches extended him the opportunity to speak to them tomorrow, I hope he'd take it and preach truth that they need to hear.


Ben,

As I said I am still wrestling through some of my thoughts on this. I think the difference with Beeson is that he was coming to give the fundamentalist perspective. It was clear he was an outsider and disagreed with the other participants. As far as his speaking at Geneva, I think that I have a few hesitations although it certainly does seem to be more in the spirit of the older fundamentalists that were willing to cross certain denominational lines to fellowship and minister with like minded fundamentalists.

My point with FBFI is that he was not going as an outsider, but a fellow fundamentalist. (note: I am very glad for the influence that men like Bauder have had on our movement. I can only hope that they continue to drive us in the right direction). It is just that at least since the days of Graham (1957 on) we have viewed platform sharing as some amount of implicit approval. I cannot think of the number of times that I have heard denunciations of MacArthur along these lines. Perhaps sometimes this view is overblown, but perhaps in some cases it has some warrant.

I think that a parallel situation was the youth conference a couple of years ago in which Dr. Olila originally was planning to speak at and Rick Holland was another speaker and Dr. O decided after some council not to speak. Fundamentalists were up in arms about sharing a platform with him. Others also chose not to speak because of his participation in the conference. And I don't think they were wrong for doing so.

Personally I was disappointed by the choice to have Sexton as a speaker. While I realize that the politics in the FBF regarding the KJV issue are difficult, I think that wisdom at least should have caused them not to have him speak. I don't think that this means they aren't willing to defend the sole authortity of Scripture though. As I said in my first post I think that Sexton and other KJVO's are all to ready to use the Bible to make their case. I think they mishandle it in doing so, but I am sure they would say the same about me in defending the opposite position.


All that to say that there appears to be a double standard here. FBF does not defend the sole authority of scripture by including Sexton, but Bauder gets a free pass for ministering alongside him. I would say that I was disappointed in both the FBF and Bauder, but I will stop short of denouncing either as not willing to defend the sole authority of scripture.

Thanks for the interaction

Ryan C.

RC said...

Oops. My last post was not too clear at the beginning. (I forgot the post starts with "RC said"

The italicized portion was actually said by Ben in his reply to me.

Just trying to be accurate in my quote attribution. :)

- Ryan

Ben said...

All,

Sorry for the delay. This has been a crazy week.

Don,

I don't think I'd share your conviction that false teaching on doctrines that are non-essential to salvation cannot be heretical. I think that's what you're suggesting. So I don't think you're right, but I can't make a detailed argument without some study, and that's just not a priority right now. I'll simply say this: Saying something is doctrine that is in no way doctrine is a serious error, whether or not the technical definition of heresy applies.

Ben said...

Frank,

Not sure there's much left for me to say in response to you. I think we've covered most of the ground. I do think you're right that the crux of the issue is how we talk about authority. The more I think about the way the Westminster Confession handles this difficult aspect of its statement on Scripture, the more I like it.

Perhaps another approach might be to define in a preamble to a statement of faith what a particular church's understanding of the Bible is. This would obviously be a presupposition not defended directly by Scripture, but it would at least avoid implying some of the things that we've agreed are at the very least unhelpful or unclear. But I still like what the WCF does better.

By the way, I took no offense whatsoever to any of your comments, but I appreciate your sensitivity to that concern.

Ben said...

Anonymous,

You may be new here. I don't interact with anonymous comments.

Ben said...

Ryan C,

I think there's a vast difference between what happened with Bauder's speaking engagements, the youth conference that Dr. Ollila removed himself from, and the ecumenical Graham crusades.

No one who ever shares a platform with anyone else ever shares everything that everyone else on that platform believes. The question in a very simple form is whether the level of fellowship that exists compromises the gospel. If it does, then it's inexcusable. I don't think Bauder compromised the gospel in any of those scenarios. I don't think anyone who participated with the student ministries pastor from Grace Community Church in the youth ministry conference compromised the gospel. In fact, GCC is far more reliable on the gospel than the VAST majority of movement fundamentalism. That ought to be patently obvious. I do think Graham's intimate cooperation with men who denied the authority of Scripture and the very essence of the gospel was an egregious error that surely compromised the gospel.

You also mentioned someone who declined an invitation to participate in that youth ministry conference because of another speaker. On that point, I don't think anyone is compelled to cooperate in that kind of venture. I think there is a whole raft of wisdom issues that could lead a person to decline such an invitation. So I would in no way criticize (even though I might disagree with the reasoning) anyone who would decline in advance an invitation of this sort on principle.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben,

Don't want to beat a dead horse... I just got back from Family Camp, so I thought I would respond to this statement:

"Saying something is doctrine that is in no way doctrine is a serious error, whether or not the technical definition of heresy applies."

Perhaps part of our difference is in our definition of the term "doctrine". Any teaching is a doctrine. Some doctrines are essential and any doctrine may or may not be explicitly supported by Scripture. And in fact, some doctrines aren't even implicitly supported by Scripture.

In any case, I think you are making a Statement of Faith to be more than it is. I am sure that you don't insist that everyone you fellowship with agree on every point of a statement of faith with you. (awkward sentence... does it make sense?) The question is where do we draw the line. You appear to be drawing a line at any hint of KJOism, as is your privilege. I am quite happy to have fellowship with KJO men to a certain degree. That's where we'll have to disagree, I guess.

In any case, I am glad the FBF had Sexton. I hope that some of this versions fight can be put to rest.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3