Event Title

Preserving Authority, Saving Faith: The Fundamental Motivation of a Local KJB-only Church

Location

Room A

Start Date

1-10-2011 2:45 PM

End Date

1-10-2011 4:00 PM

Abstract

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed an upsurge in the controversy over the inerrancy of the Christian scriptures, particularly concerning the singular infallibility of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. Much of this debate focused upon rational explanations concerning why or why not the Authorized Version should be considered in itself the inspired, infallible, inerrant revelation of God. In the end, each side wavered little from its original position; in the face of this belief in the authority of the KJV, rational arguments, for all intents and purposes, proved ineffective. Kathleen C. Boone, in a little known work on fundamentalism’s doctrine of inerrancy, argues that such rational—what we might deem "theological"—arguments mask the socio-literary reason for holding such a belief. According to Boone, fundamentalism grounds its entire belief system in the authority of its inerrant, and thus utterly trustworthy, scripture. So integral to fundamentalism is its doctrine of inerrancy that it laces, even serves as the adhesive for, the movement’s discourse. In other words, the doctrine of inerrancy defines fundamentalism, it is inherent to and indistinguishable from the fundamentalist "faith."

The identification of inerrancy with the King James Bible in certain fundamentalist churches confines this doctrine to a particular version of the Christian scriptures. Consequently, as with inerrancy, to toss out the KJV—i.e., to adopt another, necessarily false, translation—is tantamount to tossing out the faith itself. The KJV is so intimately wrapped up in these churches’ stories of conversion that it becomes difficult interpreting any logical order between accepting Christ and accepting the inerrancy of the King James. Here, the importance of the KJV in the historical event of accepting Christ tends to differ from its importance in later testimonies of the event.

Instead of rehashing a stagnant, decades-old debate, this paper analyzes the psychological, sociological, and theological motivations behind the KJV-only doctrine. How important to the faith is it and why? How does this belief affect the soteriology, missiology, and questions of Bible translation maintained by fundamentalist churches typically so intent on cross-cultural evangelism? In what way, if any, is the KJV community-forming?

No community or social grouping, particularly one as large as fundamentalism, is monolithic—a point that makes attempting to describe, much less define, one always a hazardous exercise. Consequently, this paper focuses on a single congregation, though one deeply rooted in the wider KJV-only community. By analyzing a series of interviews, discussions, and firsthand participation in the church’s activities, this paper endeavors to provide a provisionary answer to these questions and thus to illuminate the heart—that is, the "faith"—of this community.

In short, this paper is a socio-religious foray into an often maligned and much more often misunderstood—even by itself—fundamentalist community with the ultimate intention of raising questions for further study and, in doing so, of providing a more fruitful avenue into the KJV-only debate.

Comments

Jason A. Hentschel earned his M.Div. at Baylor and is working on his doctorate in Historical Theology at the University of Dayton where he is a GSA. He recently spoke on the church’s motivation for becoming KJV only, at Baylor University’s 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible Conference.

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Oct 1st, 2:45 PM Oct 1st, 4:00 PM

Preserving Authority, Saving Faith: The Fundamental Motivation of a Local KJB-only Church

Room A

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed an upsurge in the controversy over the inerrancy of the Christian scriptures, particularly concerning the singular infallibility of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. Much of this debate focused upon rational explanations concerning why or why not the Authorized Version should be considered in itself the inspired, infallible, inerrant revelation of God. In the end, each side wavered little from its original position; in the face of this belief in the authority of the KJV, rational arguments, for all intents and purposes, proved ineffective. Kathleen C. Boone, in a little known work on fundamentalism’s doctrine of inerrancy, argues that such rational—what we might deem "theological"—arguments mask the socio-literary reason for holding such a belief. According to Boone, fundamentalism grounds its entire belief system in the authority of its inerrant, and thus utterly trustworthy, scripture. So integral to fundamentalism is its doctrine of inerrancy that it laces, even serves as the adhesive for, the movement’s discourse. In other words, the doctrine of inerrancy defines fundamentalism, it is inherent to and indistinguishable from the fundamentalist "faith."

The identification of inerrancy with the King James Bible in certain fundamentalist churches confines this doctrine to a particular version of the Christian scriptures. Consequently, as with inerrancy, to toss out the KJV—i.e., to adopt another, necessarily false, translation—is tantamount to tossing out the faith itself. The KJV is so intimately wrapped up in these churches’ stories of conversion that it becomes difficult interpreting any logical order between accepting Christ and accepting the inerrancy of the King James. Here, the importance of the KJV in the historical event of accepting Christ tends to differ from its importance in later testimonies of the event.

Instead of rehashing a stagnant, decades-old debate, this paper analyzes the psychological, sociological, and theological motivations behind the KJV-only doctrine. How important to the faith is it and why? How does this belief affect the soteriology, missiology, and questions of Bible translation maintained by fundamentalist churches typically so intent on cross-cultural evangelism? In what way, if any, is the KJV community-forming?

No community or social grouping, particularly one as large as fundamentalism, is monolithic—a point that makes attempting to describe, much less define, one always a hazardous exercise. Consequently, this paper focuses on a single congregation, though one deeply rooted in the wider KJV-only community. By analyzing a series of interviews, discussions, and firsthand participation in the church’s activities, this paper endeavors to provide a provisionary answer to these questions and thus to illuminate the heart—that is, the "faith"—of this community.

In short, this paper is a socio-religious foray into an often maligned and much more often misunderstood—even by itself—fundamentalist community with the ultimate intention of raising questions for further study and, in doing so, of providing a more fruitful avenue into the KJV-only debate.