Double Inspiration and the Debate Over the Best Bible Version

One of my biggest Christian inspirations is Dr. Peter Ruckman. Unfortunately, Dr. Ruckman—a divisive figure if ever there was one in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church—passed away on April 21st. Instead of remembering the lyrics to Purple Rain, like everyone else on social media, I reminisced about one of the greatest evangelists of the last century.

When someone asks me a question about Bible translation, I answer that I believe that the King James is the best and most accurate translation, and I ONLY use it. Unbeknownst to me, this can get some “theologians” all riled up. And whenever I discuss the KJV, I appeal to the work of Dr. Ruckman that I learned when I was a kid.

At around 10 years old, I was exposed to a whole host of arguments from Ruckman and Gail Riplinger that, in my opinion, did an excellent job of criticizing the other translations—most of which are based on the famed Westcott and Hort text. So, for me, this debate has been over for 25 years. However, this past week has caused me to do some refreshing study.

In the past week I found myself in the middle of more than one conversation about the “best” translation of the Bible into the English language. Admittedly, I was caught a little off guard as the graduates of Bible colleges began to use terms that I, a mere secular scholar, was actually unfamiliar with. The first, which I did not know was controversial, is the idea of being “King James Only.”

According to these modern Bible students, King James Only is not simply a reference to only using the King James Bible, but an argument of “double inspiration”. Men like Dr. Ruckman are sometimes seen as heretical for this view. I, myself, not understanding the impact of the concept, also thought it could be wrong.

Most Christians can agree that the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts written in the hand of the prophets and apostles were “inspired” by God. In other words, the literal words from God were penned by men. Double inspiration becomes controversial in that some Christians believe that the King James Bible is ALSO inspired in the same way that the original texts were.

After some research, I have come to the conclusion that I am not only as heretical as Dr. Ruckman, but should probably be kicked out of the church altogether, because I am inclined to believe in not only double, but multiple inspiration. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. In order to be inspired, there must be not only a written, but spoken (maybe out loud, maybe in the spirit or heart—non-Christians cannot understand how this works, but Christians should be able to) component. Jesus Christ, as God in the flesh, most certainly held many conversations that were not written down. Are they Scripture? No. When Christ rescued the adulterous woman and challenged her accusers to cast the first stone, he wrote something on the ground. Is that Scripture? No. So not every word of God is THE Word of God. Thus, inspiration is more than just a communication from God, there are specific criteria for it—and God is the one who can truly determine what that is.

Inspiration need not be the direct words from God’s lips to man’s ear to parchment. Inspiration may come in many forms. What happens when those original forms are destroyed? God wrote the ten commandments by his own hand, and the tablets were broken almost instantly. What Moses brought down to the children of Israel were copies. Furthermore, what was written onto parchment was copied from the tablets. Any time someone references the commandments—including Jesus Christ—and were included in the Bible, they copied a copy of a copy.

 

  1. There are no original texts, nor have there been for many centuries. No translation of the Bible in any language has had the privilege of being translated from the original source manuscripts. What we have are translations of copies. If the original manuscripts are the only “inspired” texts, then NO modern translation is. This is absurd on its face.

What we do have is a compilation of copies of Greek and Hebrew texts that sometimes contain differences between them. The King James stands atop the rest as being 99% accurate when compared to this compilation.

There are several verses that deal with Biblical preservation, and basically God promised that His words would remain accessible to us until all the words in the book have been fulfilled. The KJV has been the dominant English translation of the Bible (both in fame and book sales) for 500 years. If that is not preservation, I would love to know what is.

3. I believe that the King James version is the literal Word of God written in English—thus making it inspired. I also believe that God speaks all of our languages, therefore there are probably literal, “inspired” translations in every language on the planet. Thus, I believe in multiple inspiration! Oh no, the heresy!

  1. There are some major issues with not only the translations (missing verses/changing meaning) but the translators of other versions. The worst offenders are Westcott and Hort who are behind the NIV, NKJV, NSV, and even the newly touted ESV (which is “supposed” to be the newest “superior” version to the King James).

The ESV claims to be translated from the original Greek and Hebrew…which do not exist.

It is simply and updated version of the Revised Standard Version, not the King James.

Furthermore, Westcott and Hort were: Darwinists, mockers of the first three chapters of Genesis, supporters of Mary worship, blasphemers who called the Atonement a heresy, deniers of Satan’s existence, and believers that heaven is not a real place

How can someone who does not believe in so many foundational Christian beliefs possibly produce an accurate translation of The Bible?

I am still studying this a bit, but I believe that anyone who mocks those who believe in double inspiration walk their own line of falling into heresy and judgment. I found multiple websites devoted to calling Dr. Ruckman a heretic for his views, while vaguely—and sometimes inaccurately—attacking his views and personality.

I personally find many completely logical reasons to believe in double inspiration. Again, without ANY ORIGINAL TEXTS, Christians would have to admit that not only have none of us ever read the inspired Word of God, but that God lacks the power to preserve his word throughout the ages. I am not bold enough to question His omnipotence.

Moreover, it disturbs me to find that Christian “scholars” are so petty. I believe that the issue of which translation is superior is a valid concern, regardless of “double inspiration” or “King James Only” being some sort of buzz words used to identify radicals and “Ruckmanites”—I would wear either term with a badge of honor. However, one simple question often seems to be left out when discussing the new translations: is there anything actually wrong with the KJV?

I doubt if you could find a “scholar” who can accurately point to something tangible as evidence. More people were brought to Christianity under the KJV than any other translation in human history, not bad for an allegedly flawed book. As Dr. Ruckman wrote in The Anti-Intellectual Manifesto—which is an amazing critique of the secularization running rampant in our “Christian” colleges—“The bigger the belfry, the more room for the bats.”

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The Illegitimacy of the Legalism Label

“Legalism” has become a buzz word in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement lately. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, we keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what we think it means.

Let us start with the etymology. “Legal” refers to law; specifically, written law. “Ism” is an adherence to a theory or doctrine. Thus, legalism is a strict adherence to written law.

Now, many Christians that I have encountered recently have thrown this term out like it is some measure of their street cred in the IFB movement. One person actually said he is a “recovering” member of the IFB church—like he was a drug addict—and now seems to have some sort of mission to show everyone else that his way is the correct way.

Is it?

Legalism comes up in any conversation that involves worship music (both style and instrumentation), preferred Bible translation, proper church attire, or procedures for rituals like baptism or communion. However, none of these topics are inherently legalistic.

For example, my father is a traditionalist. He prefers the use of hymns to contemporary Christian music. He believes that only string and brass instruments should be used in worship. Of course, we have had many disagreements about this since I am a drummer who wants to use my talent to be a worship leader.

To the modern IFB critic, my dad’s strict beliefs about music are “legalistic”, yet I would argue that his preference stems more from tradition than law. There are no written laws about worship music; therefore, how can this be legalism?

There are many Christians who believe that men should wear suits, and ladies should wear dresses (with hems BELOW the knees, of course) to church. Modesty is the appropriate stylistic choice when crossing the threshold of the House of God. After all, if we were to visit the President of the United States or the Queen of England, would we not dress up for it? Why, then, would we not wear our “Sunday best” when going to the home of the King of Heaven?

Again, this is a traditional view, not a written law.

Perhaps the most volatile of the “legalistic” subjects is Bible translation. Other than worship music, this subject will get Christians riled up like nothing else. Are you a 1611 King James Version person, or are you okay with the alphabet soup of modern translations like NIV, ESV, NLT, NKJV, NASB, NCV, or RSTLNE? LOL, JK.

Those who stand on the soapbox of reformed IFB members will hail down accusations of legalism against any who stand by the traditional King James Version. Some, and I believe this to be idiotic, will go as far as to say that if you claim to be KJV-Only, then you are claiming that the King James is MORE INSPIRED than the original texts (which no longer exist, by the way). As if anyone believes that there was no true Bible until 1611 A.D.

If anyone DOES believe that (in my almost 28 years of being a Christian, I have never met a single person who does), they are simply wrong.

That being said, belief that the KJV is superior to the alphabet soup is not a blind adherence to some written (or even unwritten) law of being a legitimate Baptist. I would say it is actually more than mere tradition. As the source document for our entire religion, The Bible is more important than clothes or music. If the foundation of your worldview is flawed, then so is your worldview.

I personally believe the King James to be the only divinely inspired Bible in the English language. Other translations change words that can change the context of a verse, and some remove verses completely. Some modern translations make errors so large as confusing the Son of the Morning (Lucifer/Satan) with the Morning Star (Jesus Christ).

This truly matters.

Yet those who are critical of the  IFB “legalists” flippantly disregard any discussion of our founding document as some way of measuring spiritual fortitude and they are “recovering” from such drivel. As if somehow listening to Christian rock music and reading a New International Version of The Bible is superior to tradition.

I find it interesting to see the parallels in modern American politics. There is a growing sentiment that The Constitution is an old document that needs updated, and we need to progress beyond the traditions of the past and embrace change.

The King James Version and The Constitution are irrelevant in the modern era, because they are ancient. They are difficult to understand and should be updated. Some of us are “recovering” Baptists; some are “recovering” conservatives.

Traditionalism is not legalism, my dear readers.

Like The Constitution, The Bible is full of written laws. As Americans and/or Christians, we should understand and follow the laws written into our founding documents.

When it comes to worship and clothing, there are very few written laws. Thus, disagreements about these things boil down to preference, not legalism. Our arguments are over tradition, not law.

Odd that someone can break away from being legalistic as soon as they buy a new Bible translation, even if they still believe that we should not wear shorts to church. One stops being a legalist the moment they play a contemporary Christian song from the stage, even if they ban drums from the platform.

The lines of legalism are blurry and ambiguous, at best. Yet we are supposed to believe that “recovering” Christians have any sort of legitimate argument as they pass judgment on the rest of us? The arrogance of their perceived superiority only serves to undermine their critique of traditionalists in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church as being arrogant in their “old” beliefs.

The Pharisees were the models for legalism in that they stuck to their Old Testament beliefs while the New Testament stood before them in human form healing the sick on the Sabbath. They killed Christ for violating the written law.

The Pharisees placed the written law of God over the spoken law of Jesus Christ. There is no modern equivalent in the IFB church.

Christianity in America is in the decline, not because of legalism, but because of petty arguments over preference. There are thousands of churches throughout our country, and I would bet that none are exactly the same. It is not incredibly difficult to fine one to suit your preferences. So find one that works for you and shut your mouth about the rest of us. Save your judgment and your comments about traditionalists being like “Pharisees”.

Like so many other labels, those who tend to use them misunderstand their meaning. There are incredibly few true legalists among us today. Moreover, it is never right to apply the actions of a few to an entire classification of people. This is known as stereotyping, and is generally frowned upon.

If following The King James Bible makes me a legalist, although I play drums to Christian rock music and I care very little about what people wear to church, then so be it. It is not the label I would choose for myself, but I am proud to know that I am advancing the Kingdom of God in a way that does not violate the Word of God. That is good enough for me. Is it good enough for you?

 

The Cure for Legitimation Crisis

We are staring into the eyes of what Jurgen Habermas called a “legitimation crisis.” There is a fundamental mistrust of our government, churches, media, education, legal system, and other administrative agencies that are supposed to be in place to protect us from tyranny.

Regardless of our political or religious affiliations, we feel let down. This is the inescapable downfall of humanism. When we rely on human beings for anything, we will inevitably be disappointed.

Thomas Jefferson is a hero to American conservatives. He was one of the Founding Fathers who was a staunch advocate of a small centralized government and one of the authors of the Federalist Papers. He is one of the most oft-quoted Americans of all time and is one of the few Founders that has his face on not one, but two pieces of our currency.

Thomas Jefferson was also a slave owner who was notoriously promiscuous with his slaves. No matter how hard conservatives try to ignore this history, they cannot. Some of his behavior cannot be excused.

Karl Marx is a hero to American progressives. He is widely taught throughout our university system for his critiques of Capitalist greed and inequalities. His writings in the Communist Manifesto and Kapital influenced multiple nations to try their hand at Communism via Socialism. The U.S.S.R., China, Russia, Germany, North Korea, North Vietnam, Italy, France, Sweden, Denmark, Cuba, and other nations have all tried to invoke Marx’s ideas of eliminating private property and sharing in goods and services by way of government distribution. Most of these Communist states have collapsed entirely after massive genocides and totalitarian regime changes. Others are facing massive economic failures, and even peaceful Sweden has become the rape capital of the world due to their lax immigration laws.

American Marxists would simply blame these failures on the fact that these nations did not actually follow Marx’s principles. We cannot have Communism until global Capitalism collapses. Marx’s critiques of capitalism are valid. His theories of alienation, the fetishism of commodities, and the culture industry are all great and should be discussed.

Karl Marx was also extremely racist and misogynist. He was a poor husband and terrible father. By all indications, he was a rough, arrogant, and aggressive jerk who was infamously difficult to be around. He was a bum who could not keep a job and railed against capitalism while suckling from the teat of frequent collaborator Friedrich Engles, whose father was a wealthy industrialist. No matter how hard progressives try to ignore this history, they cannot.

Ronald Reagan defeated Communism, ended Carter’s recession, lowered taxes, shrank the size of government, and embodied the ideals of conservative Republicans. He is an icon whose name appears in every GOP debate.

Reagan also allowed amnesty and must be held accountable for the Iran-Contra affair.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is considered to be one of the greatest Presidents of all time. He expanded social programs in America like never before with the New Deal.

FDR also interned the Japanese into camps and was famous for being racist. Many economists are coming to understand that his high taxation and heavy regulations on businesses actually extended the Great Depression rather than ended it.

Sure, politicians are almost always seen as being corrupt, but are church leaders any different? How many major ministers resign from their churches due to sex scandals? Catholic priests are notorious for unlawful carnal knowledge with altar boys. Jimmy Baker disappeared from public after his extra-marital affairs came to light. Mark Driscoll stepped away from his church when allegations of fraudulent book sales surfaced.

Many Christians cringe at news coverage of the Westboro Baptist Church protesting military funerals with “God Hates Fags” signs or when Pat Robertson blames 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina on homosexuality.

No media outlet is trusted—nor are any unbiased.

Our professors are ideologically opposed to the majority of Americans, but they are responsible for helping us transition from immature teenagers to responsible adults. All while coddling young twenty-somethings and keeping them “safe” from harmful subjects and reality checks.

If you are a black man in a courtroom, your fate is almost certainly sealed. We all know that the system is broken, but trying to address the problems will cost votes in an upcoming election. One cannot be elected while seeming soft on crime.

We fear the government. We fear the legal system. We are always let down by politicians and church leaders who only gain power through the cult of personality rather than through merit.

We are the fools who continually put our trust in flawed human beings. We are also flawed and want to hope that our leaders are able to withstand corruption, because we want to believe that we can do the same.

What we are left with is just more disappointment, devastation, and depression.

It has been my experience that standing behind principles is a stronger position than behind people.

My principles are predominantly Christian. I put my Faith in the only perfect being in all of the universe. I do not have to make excuses for ANY behavior exhibited by Jesus Christ. There is no literary “character arc” where Jesus went from a flawed person to a hero. He was and is God from birth to death to resurrection.

No other leader in history can make that claim. Even if you do not believe that The Bible is the literal Word of God or that it is just a collection of stories, you still must admit that there has never been so perfect a character in all of literature.

Peter, Paul, Thomas, King David, Abraham, Moses, and Noah all made a transition from flawed to Faithful. Christ never did.

Mohammed, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, and the entire line of Popes cannot claim to be as perfect of Christ. They were all flawed human beings that died flawed—and all remain dead.

Christian principles of loving everyone—including enemies—and treating others as you want to be treated, as well as not lying, killing, or stealing are practically universal. Can any other ideology claim the same?

We cannot judge or justify Christianity based on the actions of Christians—but we should base it on the actions of Jesus Christ. To be contrary to Christ is simply not Christian.

I am secure in believing that my worldview is based on universal perfection. That is a standard that will never let me down. I will never waver like a Marxist, a Jeffersonian, or a cult follower. I do not follow a person or god, but THE God.

I challenge you to look to your own worldview and hold it to a standard of perfection. Does it hold up? Should it hold up? If not, then why are you still clinging to a sinking ship with no life raft? There is plenty of room on our boat.