I was recently asked how I would answer people who are critical of my use of the King James Version of the Bible?
I think the first thing we need to be asking ourselves is why so many contemporary evangelicals make our use of the KJV a point of contention if we are not making it a point of contention? Is it reasonable or rational?
I think there is a spiritual dimension to this because the KJV alone represents the old Protestant orthodoxy with every contemporary translation going more to the left with each revision. (I make this observation here, but I don’t walk around pointing out people’s modern versions calling them liberal Bibles.)
Secondly, the irrational response to our using the KJV is a by-product of the Evangelical Industrial Complex. People have been hammered with the marketing campaigns for all of the new versions and repeatedly told how the KJV is out of date with each new version being a correction to the problem while ironically claiming to be the heir of the KJV.
Thirdly, we are dealing with ignorance magnified. People want to give their opinion on this and they have never read a single primary source on the subject with respect to ANY of the positions on the textual issue (and James White is not a primary source). What we are seeing is implicit faith in the critics, translators and publishing companies.
So here is what ends up happening…someone sees us using the KJV and says, “eww, why are you using that? Are you KJVO?” We then try to explain what is in fact a complex subject that requires some level of mastery of several different disciplines to even understand the points we are making. This turns the hearer, who is usually not interested in giving the subject serious attention, into a parrot saying whatever glib one or two liners they’ve heard from a popular teacher.
Therefore, my approach to this problem is this…
Q: Why do you use the KJV? Are you KJVO?
A: No, I’m not KJVO. I use the KJV because it is a masterpiece of English prose. It’s like a glorious fine wine. There’s more to it than that, but this alone would be sufficient cause for me to use it as my Bible of choice.
Q: But lost people can’t understand it.
A: Nor do they understand ANY version without the work of the Holy Spirit and that ordinarily involves someone teaching them (Acts 8:30-31). I find I can explain the language KJV quite well to anyone sitting under my ministry.
If they want to be hostile from there, I just change the subject. It is futile to engage in a discussion with someone who has a strong opinion who is ignorant on the subject. You can’t teach the unteachable.
Finally…the last thing I am going to do is give up my KJV because whiney, contemporary evangelicals are functionally illiterate. If they can’t read well enough to understand the KJV, they’ll struggle understanding ANY writings prior to the 20th century.
When someone confesses the KJV is too difficult for them to understand, I’ll sometimes point this out in a more gracious tone. I’ll say something like, “you’d be well served to learn to read the KJV fluently because it will greatly increase your reading skills which will help you in reading ANY version. This will also open the door for you to understand all of the historical Christian writings in English which is increasingly important as most popular Christian writings today are of very poor quality (maybe that gives me an opportunity to introduce them to the Puritans).
I’m not even going to begin trying to get into the textual issue with them as it is a sure way to get that glassy-eyed stare. I reserve that for people who are truly interested in the issues.