Review: God’s Word In Our Hands I

A REVIEW OF GOD’S WORD IN OUR HANDS

Cover

(edited by James B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor) 

by Rev. Kenneth Daniel Willis


PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS

From The Cover, Contributors, Appreciation, Preface and Foreword

THE COVER

The first thing I noticed about this book was that Dr. Bob Jones III wrote the only endorsement printed on the cover. He wrote: “Like a clean-edged sword, God’s Word in Our Hands cuts through the current confused and schismatic clatter on the subject of biblical preservation. These conservative and God-fearing authors do the Church great service by presenting us with soul-thrilling evidence of the reliability and durability of the eternal Word.” 

   Jones III has been a steady defender of Bob Jones University’s position on Bible translations, which can be found on the BJU website. It reads: “Bob Jones University holds to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible in the original manuscripts and that God has supernaturally preserved His inspired words in the totality of extant manuscript evidence. The position of the University on biblical translations has not changed since the founding of the school in 1927. Although Bob Jones University does not hold to a King James Only position, and from the founder to the present administration, we have never taken the position that there can be only one good translation in the English language, we continue to use the King James Version (KJV) as the campus standard in the undergraduate classroom and chapel pulpit.”

   Jones III believes the Bible is inspired in the original manuscripts and that God has preserved His Word in the originals. This will be the crux of the book God’s Word In Our Hands. Jones, BJU and the authors of (GWIOH) do not believe the words in our English Bible are inspired or preserved. This critical error will be displayed in GWIOH as it was in From The Mind of God To The Mind of Man (MOGMOM), the book produced by these same authors and the book which made GWIOH necessary. Jones III said in his lone endorsement that GWIOH “cuts through the current confused and schismatic clatter”, yet I contend that opposition to BJU’s, Jones’ and the authors’ position and that of their role models is not confused at all. Neither is it divisive other than that which causes separation from false teaching and apostasy. It is shocking that men claiming to be Fundamentalist conservatives would call opposition to Liberalism and German Higher Criticism “confused schismatic clatter”. Jones’ words set the tone for the book, which echoes the same anti-KJV and Textus Receptus theme as does the book MOGMOM. 

  One other interesting although not major thing I noticed was the logo of Ambassador Emerald International and the printing location being Belfast, Northern Ireland. This was also present on MOGMOM and done to give the impression that Dr. Ian R.K. Paisley supported the content of that book. I happen to know as a matter of fact he did not approve of either of these books’ anti-KJV and anti-Textus Receptus agendas. 

THE CONTRIBUTORS

The page before the Table of Contents and Contributors has a bold print statement that is echoed throughout the book. It reads, “We believe that the Bible teaches that God has providentially preserved His written Word. This preservation exists in the totality of the ancient language manuscripts of that revelation. We are therefore certain that we possess the very Word of God.” This statement has already been addressed in my review and echoes the doctrinal position of Bob Jones University. It is one that defies logic and reason by saying the inspired Word of God exists in the originals but essentially they do not believe it exists inerrantly in the translations from the original. This is the basic problem with Bob Jones University and the men who wrote GWIOH. They do not understand Biblical preservation or do not believe in Biblical preservation, or perhaps both. 

   The Text and Translation Committee primarily responsible for the book, as well as MOGMOM, are: Dr. Drew Conley, pastor of Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina; Dr. Paul W. Downey, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia; Dr. Michael Harding, pastor of First Baptist Church in Troy, Michigan; Rev. John K. Hutcherson Sr. of Frontline Missions International in Greenville, South Carolina; Dr. Mark Minnick, pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and faculty member of Bob Jones University Seminary, both in Greenville, South Carolina; Dr. Randolph Shaylor, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Riverdale, Georgia and Dr. James B. Williams, Chairman of the Text and Translation Committee and resident of Ringgold, Georgia. Additional contributors for this book are: Rev. Hantz Bernard, Director of Bibles International in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dr. Daniel K. Davey, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Dr. Keith E. Gephart, Professor of Bible at International Baptist College in Tempe, Arizona and Dr. John C. Mincy, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, California. Academicians for the book were: Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Baptist Seminary; Dr. David Burggraff of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary; Dr. Robert Crane of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College; Dr. Sam Horn of the late Northland Baptist Bible College; Dr. George Houghton of Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary; Dr. Roland McCune of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary; Dr. Larry Oats of Maranatha Baptist Bible College; Dr. James D. Price of Temple Baptist Seminary; Dr. Samuel Schnaiter of Bob Jones University and Dr. Mark Sidwell of Bob Jones University. 

APPRECIATION

In the Appreciation page’s opening line, James B. Williams said that the Translation Committee “is grateful for the positive response we received from our book, From The Mind of God To The Mind of Man.” He goes on several times in the book to emphasize this point. What he never mentions is the firestorm of backlash from conservative Fundamentalism over the book and BJU’s effort to promote the book. MOGMOM prompted many printed and media refutations and answers to the book. Notably, Pensacola Christian College issued a video response featuring Dr. Dell Johnson. Two books by Dr. David Sorenson printed in response to MOGMOM was Touch Not The Unclean Thing and Neither Oldest Nor Best. The list of backlash works goes on and on, not to mention the plethora of sermons, seminars and series preached and taught to combat specifically the agenda of MOGMOM. 

   Williams also said that “interest comes from many who do not consider themselves Fundamentalists, yet find the book (MOGMOM) profitable. When people that are not Fundamentalists find a book profitable, I would be greatly concerned as a conservative Fundamentalist and would not use that as a selling point for it. I can understand why non Fundamentalists would like MOGMOM and GWIOH; they felt comfortable with it, and that is very concerning to me. 

“THE HEART OF THE STORM” – PREFACE

The Preface, written by Douglas R. McLachlan, begins with an antidote but quickly reasserts the Translation Committee’s view of preservation. He says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, that can only mean Scripture in all of its parts and in every single word as given by God in the autographia.” Again, there is no mention of God’s preservation. In these folks’ minds, preservation stopped in the autographs, or hand written manuscripts. 

   He then immediately takes a jab at the King James Version saying it should have translated the Greek word theopneustos as “God-breathed” rather than “given by inspiration of God”. What McLachlan does not know apparently is that the word theopneustos can mean “God-breathed”, but in the instance of II Timothy 3:16 the KJV translators got it right by translating it as “inspiration” because God did not breathe out His words onto a scroll. He used His Holy Spirit to inspire the Bible writers exactly what to write on the scrolls. So in fact, the KJV translators displayed mastery of the Greek language in correctly conveying the literal meaning of the word and the proper meaning in the passage. This kind of attack fills both MOGMOM and GWIOH. 

FOREWORD

The author of the Foreword is unnamed. I assume it was most likely Williams, but since the author is unknown, it could be any of the authors. Regardless, the Foreword asserts that the partial reason large numbers of Americans have lost confidence in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God is because of modern liberalism and neo orthodoxy that “invaded educational institutions and pulpits at the beginning of the twentieth century. While that is true, this began in America in the mid 1800’s and was a factor in denominational splits prior to the War Between The States. The heretical apostates Westcott and Hort were at work with a liberal Greek text in 1853. Until that time, there was overwhelming agreement amongst Bible believers that the Received Text (Greek Text) was the unchallenged Text from which Bibles were translated. That all changed with Westcott and Hort’s Alexandrian (Critical Text). The Foreword author is deafeningly silent on that.  He also says that an explosion of Bible translation occurred in the twentieth century, yet the Fentor Ferrier Bible came out in 1853 and was based on the Westcott and Hort Greek text. In 1885, the Revised Version was published. It also featured the Westcott and Hort text. In 1808, came Thomson’s Translation, which used Codex Vaticanus–one of the two main manuscripts used by Westcott and Hort. The point I make with these facts is that the explosion of new versions started in the 1800’s and was a direct result of Wescott and Hort, not modern day textual critics. These facts were conveniently left out by the author and the reason for that will become clear in later chapters. The authors of MOGMOM and GWIOH adore Westcott and Hort, and that fact should alarm God’s people. 

   The author then states that some Christians have made the mistake of defending “one and only one English translation (the KJV) as the Word of God. Others have freely accepted any work that claims to be a translation of the Bible and have sought one that satisfies their personal preferences.” That quotation sums up the author’s view of the issue which GWIOH seeks to settle. The problem is, the author and authors of both MOGMOM and GWIOH have boiled down the issue of inspiration, preservation and translations to a battle between the KJVO movement and those who embrace any translation as the Word of God. They have missed the true debate. The real issue is not translations at all, but rather the Greek texts from which translations are translated. While I reject the extreme positions of the KJVO movement, these authors have painted all defenders of the KJV with the broad brush of KJV Onlyism. I am a Textus Receptus (Received Text) man. It just so happens, as these men know, that the only modern translation taken from the Textus Receptus is the KJV. Why make it about the KJV and not examine the texts? Because taking a close look at the texts will paint a very different story than their KJVO vs. Other Translations straw man argument does. 

   He concludes with a special note saying that “all the contributors to this volume wholeheartedly embrace the historic Fundamentals of the Faith.” I have no idea how men can make such a claim when they engage in writing books that attack the Scriptural teaching of divine preservation–a concept they erroneously define and one which they attack far more than they defend.

An Appeal To Fellow Preachers

It never ceases to amaze me how easily entertained people inherently are. Even folks that would seldom think to darken a church door seem to appreciated a “good preacher”, much like anyone is intrigued with a  good story teller. But it has been my observation, through at least 22 years of experience in hearing sermons from some of the greatest names in Fundamentalism, that far too often it is the charisma and showmanship people flock to rather than the accurate exposition of Scripture. This is something I constantly witness and honestly is deeply troubling. What good is a “fireball” preacher if he is performing much in the same way a circus act would to grab the eyes and ears of those in the pew, and yet is failing to preach what the Scripture he uses actually means. I see this the most in relation to money and giving, specifically to the one preaching or their ministry. This is not to say a faithful preacher cannot have charisma and a way of captivating those hearing him, but if that is the full extent of what he does, he is worthless, and I say even dangerous to the cause of Christ. This article is not intended to be unkind or scathing, but rather to cause soul searching and careful self-examination. To proclaim the Word of God is not a trivial performance, but a sacred duty that historically has cost men everything, and must be given the absolute utmost of care and holy fear it demands. The word preach in the Scripture means precisely to herald a message, a message given by God. Therefore, how we herald that message is gravely serious. I have been a Baptist all my life, and believe in general, they are closest to the Scriptures, but I believe we as Baptists are not perfect and have room for growth; much more, we are in need of returning to the Scriptures in how we preach and train young men to preach and teach the Scriptures. I am not presuming to have all the answers in that endeavor, but am bold enough to admit and proclaim that we are in danger of teaching the traditions of men for the doctrines of God. There must be some form of reformation where we examine how and what we preach, and examine our hearts to see if we are preaching to win the crowd, or preaching to speak the whole council of God, as it is written. My heart is heavy by seeing how often IFB preachers work up a proverbial or literal sweat, charismatically preaching messages in which they–whether by intention or ignorance–extrapolate, misapply and even mislead those under the sound of their voice. Many times their applications are good, moral things, yet had nothing to do with the actual meaning or teaching of the text. The saddest part of this is that many times the youth pick up on this and an instant questioning of everything being preached begins in that young heart. And no one is to blame but us, the preachers. I do not believe the answer is more seminaries or Bible colleges, but rather the instruction within them, and most importantly, the education only provided by the Holy Spirit and much time spent in prayer and faithful, exhausting study of the Word of God–not just pulling verses out of context to suit a presupposed thesis. This will not do and is wrecking our denomination.

I understand this article may cause misunderstandings and even outrage, but we must have the honesty and humility to examine ourselves and consider whether or not these things be so.

Sincerely and Brokenly,

Kenneth D. Willis